Florida was the only state that remained too close to call Wednesday as votes in Miami-Dade were still being counted a day after President Barack Obama won a second term.
Poll workers scanned absentee ballots all day long and into the night Wednesday at the Miami-Dade County Elections Department headquarters in Doral.
About 10,000 absentee ballots had been counted by Wednesday evening, with another 10,000 still to be tallied.
”We received 20,000 absentee ballots in our possession before 7 p.m., and this is a really high number. We've never had this volume of absentee ballots turned in the afternoon of Election Day," said Carolina Lopez, a spokeswoman for the Miami-Dade supervisor of elections.
Miami-Dade Ballots Still Being Counted
Election officials blamed that volume, and the length of the ballots, for the delay in reporting the county's results – which in turn is holding up the state's voting results.
”The volume of absentee ballots that have come in, it grows in popularity one election after the other. In addition to the number of pages that we have to process, that's why we're still reading," Deputy Supervisor of Elections Christina White said. "It's not due to any issues at all, it's volume-driven.”
But critics like Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez don't buy it. The absentee ballots are one thing, he says, but another are the enormous lines he saw at polling sites like one in Brickell that closed at 1:30 a.m.
”And I want to personally apologize to those people that stood in line that long, for that period of time. That's certainly not something that I’m happy with,” Gimenez said.
Thirteen extra poll workers were sent to the Brickell site Tuesday night, and overall about 10 percent of the precincts stayed open past 10:30 p.m., according to the Miami-Dade supervisor of elections.
Gimenez said his administration will look into why the long lines happened.
"Who's responsible for that to happen? Did we have the proper equipment, did we have the right
number of personnel?" he said. "Obviously we didn't do something right in those precincts."
The absentee ballots were counted throughout the night on Tuesday.
"We're very optimistic that we'll be done by this afternoon," White said at a news conference on Wednesday.
That did not happen.
"This may not necessarily be a quick process," Supervisor of Elections Penelope Townsley admitted.
Looking to future elections, she said, "There are lessons to be learned, and we will be considering all the activity that took place during this election and making those decisions for efficiencies."
White said the steps for reviewing an absentee ballot include putting it through an automated system, verifying the signature, a possible review by the canvassing board and opening them and putting them through vote tabulators.
"We want to make sure the integrity of that process is upheld and we follow all those steps properly so we've been working through the night," White said, adding that workers were placed on 24-hour shifts to complete the process.
The results are being reported to the state elections department every 30 minutes, White said. Provisional ballots will be counted on Thursday and Friday.
Voters in Miami-Dade stood in lines until the wee hours of Wednesday to cast their vote, even after Obama had been declared the winner of the 2012 election. While Florida was still too close to call in the presidential contest, many local races had already been called.
White said some precincts remained open past midnight, about five hours after polls were supposed to close, with the last ones finally closing around 1:30 a.m.
One busy nighttime polling site was Miami Fire Station No. 4, where voters were in line outside the station just before 11 p.m. and were handed pizza by firefighters. Those allowed to wait in line after hours were voters who arrived at polling sites by the scheduled 7 p.m. closing time.
Some voters at South Kendall Community Church in the Hammocks said they waited around five or six hours to cast their ballots.
"I did decide to stay this long after I saw the line," Andre Murias said. "It's my first time voting, so I thought I'd make it memorable."
Voter Andre Martin didn't finish voting until around midnight.
"There was definitely some frustration, because I would have liked to put in my vote before I knew what the results were going to be," he said.
White said that in addition to the large number of absentee ballots turned in Tuesday, the length of the ballot and the number of pages that have to be processed contributed to the delay.
She said turnout in Miami-Dade was around 65 percent.
"All in all, our precincts ran very smoothly," White said. "Yes, we did have lines and in some cases very long lines, we understand that and we'll be reviewing that after the election as we typically do to see how improvements can be made."