ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Better late than never.
Florida declared that U.S. President Barack Obama won the state's 29 electoral votes, ending a four-day count with a razor-thin margin that narrowly avoided an automatic recount that would have brought back memories of 2000.
No matter the outcome, Obama had already clinched re-election and now has 332 electoral votes to Romney's 206.
The Florida Secretary of State's Office said that with almost 100 percent of the vote counted, Obama led Republican challenger Mitt Romney 50 percent to 49.1 percent, a difference of about 74,000 votes. That was over the half-percent margin where a computer recount would have been automatically ordered unless Romney had waived it.
There is a Nov. 16 deadline for overseas and military ballots, but under Florida law, recounts are based on Saturday's results. Only a handful of overseas and military ballots are believed to remain outstanding.
It's normal for election supervisors in Florida and other states to spend days after any election counting absentee, provisional, military and overseas ballots. Usually, though, the election has already been called on election night or soon after because the winner's margin is beyond reach.
"Florida has spoken loudly in support of moving our nation forward," Ashley Walker, the Obama campaign's director for Florida, said in a news release. She added that the win was a testament to the campaign's volunteers and staff.
When reached by phone Saturday, Mitt Romney's communications director Gail Gitcho said the campaign had no comment.
Obama's win came in part from heavy support from black, Hispanic and younger voters. Exit polls conducted for The Associated Press showed Obama was favored by more than 9 of 10 black voters and 3 of 5 Hispanic voters in Florida. The president also was the choice of two-thirds of voters under age 30.
Republican challenger Mitt Romney led among both white and older voters.
In the end, the facts of who voted for which candidate in Florida faded into memory as voting issues emerged election night.
On election night this year, it was difficult for officials — and the media — to call the presidential race here, in part because the margin was so close and the voting stretched into the evening.
In Miami-Dade, for instance, so many people were in line at 7 p.m. in certain precincts that some people didn't vote until after midnight.
The hours-long wait at the polls in some areas, a lengthy ballot and the fact that Gov. Rick Scott refused to extend early voting hours has led some to criticize Florida's voting process. Some officials have vowed to investigate why there were problems at the polls and how that led to a lengthy vote count.
If there had been a recount, it would not be as difficult as the lengthy one in 2000. The state no longer uses punch-card ballots, which became known for their hanging chads. All 67 counties now use optical scan ballots where voters mark their selections manually.
Republican George W. Bush won the 2000 contest after the Supreme Court declared him the winner over Democrat Al Gore by a scant 537 votes.
The win gave Obama victories in eight of the nine swing states, losing only North Carolina. In addition to Florida, he won Ohio, Iowa, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Virginia, Colorado and Nevada.
Based on reporting by the Associated Press.