With 95 percent of precincts reporting, President Bush had 52 percent, while Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., had 47 percent. Returns were slow to come in from urban South Florida, where Kerry has strong support and turnout was heavy.
“I think we’re going to see a record turnout when the final numbers are in,” Florida Secretary of State Glenda Hood said.
Some voters in Florida reported waiting for more than six hours to cast ballots.
“I’m willing to wait no matter how long. Not everybody in the world has this privilege,” Kelly Jimenez of Little Haiti told the Miami Herald.
Attempting to avoid many of the snafus that plagued the 2000 election — confusing butterfly ballots and hanging chads — many counties switched to electronic touch-screen voting machines.
The plan seemed to work and only small problems were reported, including 10 touch screen machines that failed in Broward County and nine that ran out of battery power in Palm Beach County. This was a sharp contrast to 2000 when it took 36 days and the Supreme Court’s involvement to declare the state’s winner. The court ruled 5-4 to end a second recount, and George W. Bush won the state by only 537 votes.
”I don’t think you’ll be seeing us on the national news as the laughing stock of the country,” Miami-Dade Commission Chairwoman Barbara Carey-Shuler told the Miami Herald.
Democrats had hoped that party efforts to mobilize and register new voters — Florida has about 1.5 million new voters since 2000 — would be enough to push the pivotal state into Senator Kerry’s camp. But the Republicans came up ahead in the end.
“We ran an unprecedented ground game here to identify voters and turn them out on Election Day,” Mindy Tucker Fletcher, a spokeswoman for the state Republican Party, told the Herald. “And it worked. We are performing much better in places like Central Florida than we imagined we could.”
The intensity of the Florida campaign was reflected in the high spending in the state. Both campaigns spent more than $40 million on TV commercials alone since March.
The results bode well for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, the president’s brother, who some observers say helped bring the state a Republican victory. The governor has high approval ratings, especially since his successful response to the four hurricanes that hit the state across six weeks in August and September.