The absentee ballot count is mercifully over.
Miami-Dade elections workers counted a final batch of 500 absentees Thursday morning, after pulling an all-nighter. Supervisor of Elections Penelope Townsley was expected to announce the final results of those ballots early Thursday.
"We're done," said elections department spokeswoman Christina White.
The last-minute surge of some 54,000 absentees cast up until the closing of the polls on Election Day caused an extraordinary delay in tabulating the final results for Miami-Dade's vote. Hanging in the balance: the official outcome of the presidential race between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, along with a handful of local elections.
Townsley is expected to update reporters at noon on the status of the absentee tabulation. She said the county's total election results -- including provisional ballots that still must be counted -- will be completed by Friday.
Florida remains the only state in the union not to declare its presidential winner, and several tight local elections hang in the balance.
The fallout has left Florida the final much-mocked but blank spot on the long-decided Electoral College map.
Elections supervisors and Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez acknowledged a range of problems at a handful of sites topped by a lengthy ballot and poorly organized precincts. But they also argued that no more than a half-dozen of the countys 541 polling places experienced severe waits, including the Brickell Avenue area of downtown Miami, West Kendall, Country Walk, Goulds and Homestead.
Deputy supervisor of elections Christina White defended the countys overall handling of the election, noting that 90 percent of precincts were closed by 10:45 p.m.
We think Election Day was largely a success, she said.
Still, the last vote was cast at 1:30 a.m. after Republican challenger Mitt Romney had delivered his concession speech. Gimenez called those handful of long lines inexcusable. He said he would ask Elections Supervisor Penelope Townsley for a detailed report, convene a task force to examine problems, and press Gov. Rick Scott and lawmakers to extend early voting days and sites. For future presidential elections, he also wants to double or triple the number of early voting sites.
Obviously we didnt do something right in those precincts, he said. Its not the way we should treat our citizens.
The problems drew fire from frustrated voters, voting rights groups and political leaders from both parties. Though there were long lines elsewhere in the state, including Orlando, no reports came close to matching the grinding delays in Miami-Dade.
There are many Third World countries that would never ask their citizens to stand in line for six to seven hours to cast their ballots, said Deirdre Macnab, president of the League of Women Voters Florida.
Macnab, as well as Gimenez, put some of blame on the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature, which had laden the ballot with the full text of 10 complicated amendments, and on Scott, who had rejected appeals from the League and Democrats to extend early voting days from eight to 14.
But outgoing Miami-Dade Commission Chairman Joe Martinez, who lost a mayoral race to Gimenez, said elections supervisors should have planned better after complaints poured in regarding long lines during early voting.