By Marc Kovac
With a few strokes of his pen, Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted closed the books on the 2012 presidential vote count, certifying the final tallies and giving President Barack Obama his official margin of victory over GOP challenger Mitt Romney.
Husted completed the required certification a day early during an informal ceremony in his office near the Statehouse last week, with a few staff members and reporters on hand for the occasion.
He also finalized counts in races for U.S. Senate, Congress and the Ohio Supreme Court, plus the two constitutional amendments that appeared on the November ballot.
Though the counts shifted slightly, the ultimate results did not change from election night. Here are 10 things to consider, now that the results are finalized:
1. Breakdown: Romney won 71 Ohio counties, compared with Obama’s 17.
Obama fared better in Ohio’s urban counties, outpacing Romney by 644,433 votes in the counties that he won. Romney fared better in Ohio’s rural counties, outpacing Obama by 478,219 votes. The difference, 166,000-plus, was the final margin between the two candidates.
2. Final Turnout: More than 5.6 million of nearly 8 million registered voters cast ballots last month, a turnout of about 71 percent. The result was up slightly from the 70 percent turnout (5.8 million of 8.3 million registered voters) in the last presidential election.
3. Libertarians: More than 73,000 Ohioans opted to vote for third party candidates, with Libertarian Gary Johnson receiving the highest total (more than 49,000). That compares with 90,000-plus voters who opted for someone other than the Republican and Democratic candidates in 2008.
4. Issues: Ohio voters did not like the two statewide issues that were on the ballot.
Issue 1, which would have called for a constitutional convention, failed in all 88 Ohio counties, with the final margin 3.2 million opposing and 1.5 million supporting.
Issue 2, a redistricting reform package that was backed by Democratic groups, failed in 87 counties, though it passed by 393 votes in Athens County. The final margin had 3.1 million opposing and 1.8 million supporting.
5. Supreme Court: The results for Ohio Supreme Court races paint two different pictures for the incumbents who were unseated.
Justice Yvette McGee Brown won in only three Ohio counties, though she did so by margins of 100,000 votes in Cuyahoga and Franklin. Her opponent, Justice-elect Sharon Kennedy, won the rest, though her biggest margin was in her home county, Butler, with nearly 52,000 votes more than the incumbent.
Justice Robert Cupp, on the other hand, won in 43 counties. His opponent, Justice-elect Bill O’Neill, took the rest, including big-city counties such as Cuyahoga, Franklin, Summit, Hamilton and Stark.
6. Senate: Incumbent Democrat Sherrod Brown topped Republican challenger Josh Mandel by nearly 327,000 votes. Independent Scott Rupert snagged 250,616 votes, not enough to make up the difference between the two major- party candidates.
7. Recounts: There still are a couple of state legislative races that remain up in the air, with recounts extending into next week. Republicans are edging Democratic challengers in both.
8. Provisionals: Statehouse Democrats continue to criticize Husted for not moving to ensure all eligible provisional and absentee ballots are counted.
Lawmakers have had press conferences in recent days alleging that many ballots are being tossed for minor paperwork mistakes in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
“I think it’s very irresponsible for them to continue to ... make absurd accusations hoping that something sticks,” Husted said of his critics. “The bottom line is that we followed the law, the election was run like it’s supposed to be run, and the voters can feel confident that the people with the most votes were the ones that were elected.”
9. Electoral College: Eighteen citizens will gather at the Ohio Statehouse on Dec. 17 to cast their official votes for Obama as part of the electoral-college process.
10. Re-election: Husted is remaining mum on his plans for 2016, though he did say if he runs for office, it would be for another term as secretary of state.