US presidential election 2000

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File:ElectoralCollege2000-Large-BushRed-GoreBlue.png
Presidential electoral votes by state.

The U.S. presidential election of 2000 was one of the closest elections in U.S. history, decided by only 527 votes in the swing state of Florida. On election night, the media prematurely declared a winner twice based on exit polls before finally deciding that the Florida race was too close to call. It would turn out to be a month before the election was finally certified after numerous court challenges and recounts. Republican candidate George W. Bush won Florida's 25 electoral votes by a razor-thin margin of the popular vote in that state, and thereby defeated Democratic candidate Al Gore.

This election was only the fourth or fifth time in United States history that a candidate had won the Presidency while losing the nationwide popular vote. (The other times were the elections of 1824, 1876, 1888, and possibly 1960.)

Introduction

Al Gore publicly conceded the election after the December 12 2000 Supreme Court decision in Bush v. Gore. The Court voted 7-2 to end the recount on the grounds that differing standards in different counties constituted an equal protection violation, and 5-4 that no new recount with uniform standards could be conducted. The decision was extremely controversial due to the partisan split in the court's 5-4 decision and the majority's extremely irregular instruction that its judgment in Bush v. Gore should not set precedent but should be "limited to the present circumstances". Gore publicly disagreed with the court's decision, but conceded the election "for the sake of our unity as a people and the strength of our democracy". He had previously made a concession phone call to Bush the night of the election, then retracted it after learning just how close the election was. Following the election, recounts conducted by various U.S. news media organizations indicated that Bush would have won the most probable recount methods (including the one favored by Gore at the time of the Supreme Court decision) but that Gore might have won if other methods were adopted.

File:Butterfly large.jpg
butterfly ballot

The Florida election has been closely scrutinized since the election, and several irregularities are thought to have favored Bush. These included the notorious Palm Beach "butterfly ballot", which produced an unexpectedly large number of votes for third-party candidate Patrick Buchanan, and a purge of some 50,000 alleged felons from the Florida voting rolls that included many voters who were eligible to vote under Florida law. Some commentators still consider such irregularities and the legal maneuvering around the recounts to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the vote, but as a matter of law the issue was settled when the U.S. Congress accepted Florida's electoral delegation. Nonetheless, embarrassment about the Florida vote uncertainties led to widespread calls for electoral reform in the United States, and ultimately to the passage of the Help America Vote Act, which authorized the United States federal government to provide funds to the states to replace their mechanical voting equipment with electronic voting equipment. However, this has led to new controversies including the lack of paper-based methods of verification, and the complexity of testing required to certify correct operation of computer-based systems.

Nominations

Democratic Party nomination

Under the provisions of the 22nd amendment, incumbent President Bill Clinton was not allowed to run for a third term. Because of the many scandals surrounding his administration, numerous candidates for his party's presidential nomination were discussed. Most of these discussions focused on House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt of Missouri, Senator Bob Kerrey of Nebraska, progressive Senator Paul Wellstone of Minnesota, and former Senator Bill Bradley of New Jersey. There was even some speculation in the press that Academy Award-winning actor/director/screenwriter Warren Beatty, who had previously served as an advisor to the presidential campaigns of Senators Gary Hart and George McGovern, would run for the nomination.

By the time of the Democratic primaries, however, all of them but Bradley had decided against running. This left the field virtually wide open for Al Gore, Clinton's vice president, who immediately became the front-runner, despite Bradley's receiving the endorsements of Kerrey and Wellstone, as well as that of respected New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

Running an insurgency campaign, Bradley positioned himself as the liberal alternative to Gore, who was a founding member of the famously-centrist Democratic Leadership Council. While Michael Jordan campaigned for him in the early primary states, Bradley announced his intention to campaign "in a different way" by conducting a positive campaign of "big ideas." He made the spending of the record-breaking budget surplus on a variety of social welfare programs to help the poor and the middle-class one of his central issues, along with campaign finance reform and gun control.

Despite his excellent grass-roots organization and his expenditure of over two million dollars in Iowa alone, Bradley was easily defeated by Gore in the primaries, due in large part to the support given to Gore by the Democratic Party establishment and Bradley's poor showing in the Iowa caucus, where Gore successfully painted the aloof Bradley as being indifferent to the plight of the farmer in that highly-rural state. The closest Bradley came to a victory was his 50-46 loss to Gore in the New Hampshire primary.

Republican Party nomination

Following Bob Dole's one-sided loss to Bill Clinton in the 1996 election, the party's presidential nomination was left wide open, which led to a larger than usual number of candidates in the running. One potential candidate, retiring Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, declined to run, while conservative political commentator and two-time candidate for the nomination Pat Buchanan, after an abortive campaign for the Republican nomination, decided to run on the Reform Party ticket.

Of those who did announce their candidacy, several withdrew even before the Iowa Caucus, unable to secure funding and endorsements sufficient to remain competitive with Bush. These included Alexander, Dole, Kasich and Quayle. Steve Forbes, who could self-finance, did compete in the early contests, but did not do as well as he had in 1996. That left Bush, McCain, and Keyes as the only candidates still in the race. This was somewhat surprising because Dole had initially appeared to be Bush's most prominent rival.

With Keyes, loser of both Senate campaigns he had previously engaged in, frequently espousing ideas deemed to be too extreme for the consumption of average voters, it soon became obvious that Bush and McCain were the front-runners for the nomination. Bush, the governor of the second-largest state in the Union, the son of a former president, and the favored candidate of the Christian right, was portrayed in the media as the establishment candidate, while McCain, a maverick senator with the support of many moderate Republicans and Independents, was portrayed as an insurgent.

When McCain received a blow-out victory in the New Hampshire primary and proceeded to rack-up victories in several other New England states and the open primary in Michigan, he seemed well on his way to the nomination. When the South Carolina primary came, however, he was soundly defeated by Bush. Many credited this to the fact that it was the first primary in which only registered Republicans could vote, which negated McCain's strong advantage among Independents. Others, including the vast majority of McCain's supporters, blamed it on a campaign of push polls, smear tactics, and numerous other dirty tricks perpetrated against him by his political enemies. Although no evidence was ever found linking these activities to Bush or any member of his campaign, most members of the press and the general public seemed to believe that they were work of Karl Rove, Bush's campaign manager and a man with a history of such "indiscretions."

Whatever the real reason for it, McCain's loss in South Carolina stopped his momentum cold. Although McCain won a few additional primaries, Bush took the majority and, with the support of the party's superdelegates, handily won the nomination at the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia.

Other nominations

There were five other candidates on the majority of the 51 ballots (50 states plus the District of Columbia):

General election

File:USA 2000 presidential popular vote by county winner.jpg
Plurality winner of each county. Bush = red; Gore = blue.
File:USA 2000 presidential popular vote by county.jpg
Shows percentage of votes by county. Bush = red; Gore = blue.

Campaign

In the campaign, Bush criticized the Clinton administration policy in Somalia, where 18 Americans died in 1993 trying to sort out warring factions, and in the Balkans, where U.S. peacekeeping troops perform a variety of functions. "I don't think our troops ought to be used for what's called nation-building," Bush said in the second presidential debate. [1]

Nader was the most successful of third party candidates, drawing 2.74% of the popular vote. His campaign was marked by a traveling tour of "super-rallies"; large rallies held in sports arenas like Madison Square Garden, with filmmaker Michael Moore as master of ceremonies. After initially ignoring Nader, the Gore campaign made a big publicity pitch to (potential) Nader supporters in the final weeks of the campaign, downplaying Gore's differences with Nader on the issues and claiming that Gore's ideas were more similar to Nader's than Bush's were, noting that Gore had a better chance of winning than Nader. On the other side, the Republican Leadership Council ran pro-Nader ads in a few states in a likely effort to split the "left" vote.[2] In the aftermath of the campaign, many Gore supporters blamed Nader for drawing enough would-be Gore votes to push Bush over Gore, labeling Nader a "spoiler" candidate.

Disputes

The outcome of the November 7 election was not known for more than a month after the balloting, because of the extended process of counting and then recounting of Florida presidential ballots, which would ultimately decide the election. State results tallied on election night gave 246 electoral votes to Bush and 255 to Gore, with New Mexico (5), Oregon (7), and Florida (25) too close to call at the time. Since 270 electoral votes are required to win, Florida would put either candidate over the top, and the other two states were irrelevant. (Both New Mexico and Oregon were declared in favor of Gore over the next few days, making it 246-267.)

Bush won the election night vote count in Florida by a little over 1000 votes. Florida state law provided for an automatic recount due to the small margins. There were general concerns about the fairness and accuracy of the voting process, especially since a small change in the vote count could change the result. The final (and disputed) official Florida count gave the victory to Bush by 537 votes, making it the tightest race of the campaign (at least in percentage terms; New Mexico was decided by 363 votes but has a much smaller population, meaning those 363 votes represent a 0.061% difference while the 537 votes in Florida are just 0.009%).

The Gore campaign lodged a complaint over the state's election results, requesting that disputed ballots in four counties be counted by hand. However, the Bush campaign filed suit against the manual recounts. During the recounting process, the Bush campaign hired George H. W. Bush's former Secretary of State James Baker to oversee the legal process, and the Gore campaign hired Bill Clinton's former Secretary of State Warren Christopher. Numerous local court rulings went both ways, some ordering recounts because the vote was so close and others declaring that a selective manual recount in a few heavily-Democratic counties would be unfair. Eventually, the Gore campaign appealed to the Florida Supreme Court which ordered the recounting process to proceed. The Bush campaign subsequently appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) which took up the case Bush v. Palm Beach County Canvassing Board on December 1. On December 4, the SCOTUS returned this matter to the Florida Supreme Court for clarification due to their "considerable uncertainty" as to the reasons for certain aspects of the decision. The Florida Supreme Court clarified their ruling on this matter while the US Supreme Court was deliberating Bush v. Gore, and the two cases were then combined, with SCOTUS approving by 6-3 the Florida court's actions in the original case based on the clarifications provided.

On December 8, the Florida Supreme Court, by a 4 to 3 vote, ordered a manual recount of disputed ballots in all Florida counties in which such a recount was not already complete. This count was in progess on December 9, when the U.S. Supreme Court by a 5 to 4 vote granted Bush's emergency plea for a stay of the Florida Supreme Court recount ruling, stopping the incomplete recount.

Early in the afternoon of December 12, the Republican-dominated Florida House of Representatives voted nearly on party lines to certify the state's electors for Bush. Later that afternoon, the Florida Supreme Court upheld lower court rulings authorizing recounts in several south Florida counties.

Around 10 pm EST on December 12, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its ruling in favor of Bush by a 5-4 vote, effectively ending the legal review of the vote count with Bush in the lead. Seven of the nine justices cited differing vote-counting standards from county to county and the lack of a single judicial officer to oversee the recount, both of which, they ruled, violated the equal protection clause of the United States Constitution. The crucial 5 to 4 decision held that insufficient time remained to implement a unified standard and therefore all recounts must stop.

At 9pm on December 13, in a nationally televised address, Gore conceded that he had lost his bid for the presidency. He asked his supporters to support Bush, saying, "This is America, and we put country before party." During his speech, Gore's family, running mate Joe Lieberman, and Lieberman's wife Hadassah stood nearby.

Texas Governor George W. Bush became President-elect and began forming his transition committee. Bush seemed to try to reach across party lines and bridge a divided America, stating that "the president of the United States is the president of every single American, of every race and every background."

On January 6, 2001, a joint session of U.S. Congress met to certify the U.S. Electoral College vote. Although twenty members of the House of Representatives, most of them Democratic members of the Congressional Black Caucus, rose one by one to file objections to the electoral votes of Florida, each was ruled out of order by Gore, according to an 1877 law requiring any such objection to be sponsored by a Senator, none of whom was willing to do so.

Bush took the oath of office on January 20.

Results

Vice President Al Gore came in second even though he received a larger number of popular votes (Gore won 500,000 more popular votes than Bush) and this contributed to the controversy of the election. This was the fourth time that a candidate who did not receive a plurality of the popular vote received a majority of the Electoral College vote, the first time being in the 1824 elections, although popular vote records do not exist for earlier elections and in 1824 many states did not have a Presidential popular vote (in those states, electors were still chosen by the state legislature). Until this election, the 1888 election had been the most recent presidential election in which the winners of the popular and electoral vote differed. It should be pointed out that if the American system were based on the popular vote, rather than the Electoral College, then the focus and methods of campaigning would be different. Because of this, the validity of using popular-vote totals under the present system to predict who would have won an actual popular vote election is questionable.

Gore failed to win the popular vote in his home state of Tennessee. Had he won Tennessee, he could have won the election without Florida. Gore was the first major party presidential candidate to have lost his home state since George McGovern lost South Dakota in 1972.

Template:Start U.S. presidential ticket box Template:U.S. presidential ticket box row Template:U.S. presidential ticket box row Template:U.S. presidential ticket box row Template:U.S. presidential ticket box row Template:U.S. presidential ticket box row Template:U.S. presidential ticket box row Template:U.S. presidential ticket box row Template:U.S. presidential ticket box row Template:U.S. presidential ticket box other Template:End U.S. presidential ticket box Source (Popular Vote): Template:Leip PV source 2

Source (Electoral Vote): 2000 Electoral Vote Totals. Official website of the National Archives. (August 7, 2005).

(a) One elector from the District of Columbia, Barbara Lett-Simmons, abstained from voting in protest of the District's lack of a voting representative in US Congress. (D.C. did have a non-voting delegate to Congress.)
(b) Template:U.S. presidential election PV minimum

Detailed results by state are also available

Close states

  1. Florida, 0.01%
  2. New Mexico, 0.06%
  3. Wisconsin, 0.22%
  4. Iowa, 0.31%
  5. Oregon, 0.44%
  6. New Hampshire, 1.27%
  7. Minnesota, 2.40%
  8. Missouri, 3.34%
  9. Ohio, 3.51%
  10. Nevada, 3.55%
  11. Tennessee, 3.86%
  12. Pennsylvania, 4.17%
  13. Maine, 5.11%
  14. Michigan, 5.13%
  15. Arkansas, 5.44%
  16. Washington, 5.58%
  17. Arizona, 6.28%
  18. West Virginia, 6.32%
  19. Louisiana, 7.68%
  20. Virginia, 8.04%
  21. Colorado, 8.36%
  22. Vermont, 9.94%

Florida election results

On election night, it quickly became clear that Florida would be a contentious state. The national television networks, through information provided them by the Voter News Service, first called Florida for Gore well in advance of the polls closing in the most heavily Republican counties, then for Bush hours after all the polls had closed (leading to questions about the influence of biased national news media in the election process), then as "too close to call". The Voter News Service was an organization backed and supported by television networks and the Associated Press to help determine the results of presidential elections as early as possible, through early result tallies and exit polling.

Due to the narrow margin of the original vote count, Florida law mandated a statewide recount. In addition, the Gore campaign requested that the votes in three counties be recounted by hand. Florida state law (F.S. Ch. 102.166) at the time allowed the candidate to request a manual recount by protesting the results of at least three precincts. The county canvassing board then decides whether or not to recount (F.S. Ch. 102.166 Part 4) as well as the method of the recount in those three precincts. If the board discovers an error, they are then authorized to recount the ballots (F.S. Ch. 102.166 Part 5). The canvassing board did not discover any errors in the tabulation process in the initial mandated recount. The Bush campaign sued to prevent additional recounts on the basis that no errors were found in the tabulation method until subjective measures were applied in manual recounts. This case eventually reached the United States Supreme Court, which ruled 5-4 to stop the vote count, which allowed Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, a Republican, to certify the election results. This allowed Florida's electoral votes to be cast for Bush, making him the winner. Seven of the nine Justices agreed that the lack of unified standards in counting votes violated the Constitutional guarantee of equal protection, but five agreed that there was insufficient time to impose a unified standard and that the recounts should therefore be stopped.

Final certified vote for the state of Florida (25 electoral votes)
Presidential Candidate Vote Total Pct Party
George W. Bush (W) 2,912,790 48.850 Republican
Al Gore 2,912,253 48.841 Democratic
Ralph Nader 97,421 1.633 Green
Patrick J. Buchanan 17,412 0.292 Reform
Harry Browne 16,102 0.270 Libertarian
John Hagelin 2,274 0.038 Natural Law/Reform
Howard Phillips 1,378 0.023 Constitution
Other 3,027 0.051 -
Total 5,962,657 100.00
Source: CBS News State Results for Election 2000

Controversy in Florida

Following the election a number of studies have been made of the electoral process in Florida by Democrats, Republicans and other interested parties. A number of flaws and improprieties have been discovered in the process. Controversies included:

  • The television news media called the state for Al Gore around 7:48pm EST, while voters in the western panhandle (which is in the Central Time Zone) of the state were still voting, potentially suppressing the (heavily Republican) panhandle vote. The media also announced polls were closed in Florida while polls in CST were open. A survey estimate by John McLaughlin & Associates put the number of voters who did not vote due to confusion as high as 15,000. This region of the state traditionally voted mostly Republican. The McLaughlin survey estimates the media announcements of closed polls and a Gore victory cost Bush a margin of 5,000 votes. Some sources say that Bush would have won by a much larger victory margin and the controversy would have been avoided if the networks had waited to call the state. Some even say that the projection may have caused some voters in other states to not vote, believing Gore elected. But there is no known corroborative evidence of any widespread or localized disenfranchisement as speculated by these sources.
  • Jeb Bush, the brother of George W. Bush, was governor of Florida, leading some Gore advocates to make various allegations of impropriety, especially due to their joint campaigning for the Republican vote in Florida and Jeb Bush's assurances to George W. Bush that the Republicans could win Florida. However, it is typical for sitting governors to strongly campaign on behalf of the candidate with the same party affiliation. Some democracy advocates have taken offense at his request for the removal of Florida election officials explaining voting/recount law on TV.
  • The actions of the Florida Secretary of State, Katherine Harris, who was in charge of state election procedures, also came under fire, due to her status as a Bush state campaign co-chairwoman, her involvement with the "scrub list", and her behavior during the recount crisis. In particular democracy advocates have taken issue with her antagonizing of Democratic lawyers, dispatching of a lawyer to Palm Beach county to convince the voting board of voting down a manual recount (despite thousands of protesters within the county including 12,000 with affidavits), and in particular her collaboration with Republican party advisers (at one point housing them).
  • There were a number of overseas ballots missing postmarks or filled out in such a way that they were invalid under Florida law. A poll worker filled out the missing information on some hundred of these ballots. The Democrats moved to have all overseas ballots thrown out because of this. These disputes added to the mass of litigation between parties to influence the counting of ballots. The largest group of disputed overseas ballots were military ballots, which the Republicans argued to have accepted.
  • Some 179,855 ballots were not counted in the official tally. These were ballots which were mistakenly filled out, however, in some counties the voting machines (Accuvotes) would return the ballot and allow voters to try again, whereas in other counties the reject mechanisms were not enabled, thus giving voters only one chance to mark the ballot correctly. As a general trend, reject mechanisms were disabled disproportionately in counties with Democratic Party county leadership and African American and Hispanic populations.
  • 57,746 voters were listed as felons on a "scrub list" and removed from the voting rolls, but later analysis shows that many were incorrectly listed. (For instance, many had names similar to actual felons, and some erroneously listed felonies were dated years in the future.See bullet 2 on this screenshot) These persons were disproportionately Democrats of African-American and Hispanic descent. In some cases, those on the scrub list were given several months to appeal, and many successfully reregistered and were allowed to vote. However, in many cases no effort was made to contact them before the election.
  • A full cousin of George W. Bush, John Prescott Ellis, was analyzing data from the Voter News Service for Fox News and had several times contact by telephone with both George and Jeb Bush that night. It was his decision to call Florida for Bush, with Fox being the first network to do so. However, Fox had also incorrectly called the state for Gore before the polls had closed, like the other networks, and retracted around the same time they did which was at around 10pm that evening. Fox only called the state for Bush at 2:16am, shortly after the famous Volusia error was introduced. This error took 16,022 votes away from Gore and added those votes and more to Bush, producing more total votes in the precinct than there were registered voters. The other major networks announced the same totals within minutes. The error was corrected quickly and the calls retracted one by one.
  • Xavier Suarez, who was ousted as mayor of Miami in 1998 on charges of absentee voter fraud, was later elected to the Executive Committee of the Miami-Dade GOP party. Suarez helped fill out absentee ballot forms and enlist Republican absentee voters in Miami-Dade County for the 2000 presidential election. “Dade County Republicans have a very specific expertise in getting out absentee ballots,” Suarez is claimed to have remarked. “I obviously have specific experience in this myself.” [4]
  • However, the great irony in the election in Florida was that the automatic recount required by state law (perhaps the only undisputed aspect of the election) was never carried out in several counties.
File:Voterseyeview.jpg
The "butterfly ballot", as seen by the voter, at an oblique angle.

Palm Beach County's butterfly ballots

The result of the Florida U.S. Presidential race was so close that one Florida county's hard-to-use ballot may have decided the presidency. Critics argue that some voters in Palm Beach County might have accidentally voted for Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan, when they thought they were voting for Al Gore, on a so-called "butterfly ballot". The Democrats are listed second in the left-hand column; but punching a hole in the second circle actually cast a vote for Buchanan, first listing in the right-hand column. Voters who punched this second hole would have ignored a prominent arrow on the ballot showing which hole was to be punched, because the design of the ballot neglected the effects of parallax due to the center row of holes being in a different plane from the two columns of printed names, and the ballot being viewed at an oblique angle.[5].

The Palm Beach Post's review of the discarded ballots showed that 5,330 votes were cast for the presumably rare cross-party combination of Gore and Buchanan, compared with only 1,631 for the equivalent cross-party combination of Bush and Buchanan. In response, others point out that the ballot was designed by a Democrat, Theresa LePore (who stated that she was basically unaffiliated and registered as a Democrat only because the county had historically chosen Democrats for her position), and approved by representatives of both major parties. But neither of these responses go to the issue of whether the ballot may have inadvertently cost Gore the election.

Buchanan said on The Today Show, November 9, 2000:

When I took one look at that ballot on Election Night ... it's very easy for me to see how someone could have voted for me in the belief they voted for Al Gore.

Although Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer said on November 9, 2000, "Palm Beach County is a Pat Buchanan stronghold and that's why Pat Buchanan received 3,407 votes there", Buchanan's Florida coordinator, Jim McConnell, responded, "That's nonsense", and Jim Cunningham, chairman of the executive committee of Palm Beach County's Reform Party, responded, "I don't think so. Not from where I'm sitting and what I'm looking at." Cunningham estimated the number of Buchanan supporters in Palm Beach County to be between 400 and 500. Asked how many votes he would guess Buchanan legitimately received in Palm Beach County, he said, "I think 1,000 would be generous. Do I believe that these people inadvertently cast their votes for Pat Buchanan? Yes, I do. We have to believe that based on the vote totals elsewhere."

The Florida Ballot Project recounts

The Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, sponsored by a consortium of major U.S. news organizations, conducted a Florida Ballot Project comprehensive review of all ballots uncounted (by machine) in the Florida 2000 presidential election, both undervotes and overvotes, with the main research aim being to report how different ballot layouts correlate with voter mistakes. Its findings were reported by the media during the week after November 12, 2001.

Although the NORC study was not primarily intended as a determination of which candidate "really won", analysis of the results, given the hand counting of machine-uncountable ballots due to various types of voter error indicated that they would lead to differing results, reported in the newspapers which funded the recount, such as The Miami Herald (The Miami Herald Report: Democracy Held Hostage) or the Washington Post [6].

Candidate Outcomes Based on Potential Recounts in Florida Presidential Election 2000
(outcome of one particular study; not representative of all studies)
Review Method Winner
Review of All Ballots Statewide (never undertaken)  
•  Standard as set by each county Canvassing Board during their survey Gore by 171
•  Fully punched chads and limited marks on optical ballots Gore by 115
•  Any dimples or optical mark Gore by 107
•  One corner of chad detached or optical mark Gore by 60
Review of Limited Sets of Ballots (initiated but not completed)  
•  Gore request for recounts of all ballots in Broward, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach and Volusia counties Bush by 225
•  Florida Supreme Court of all undervotes statewide Bush by 430
•  Florida Supreme Court as being implemented by the counties, some of whom refused and some counted overvotes as well as undervotes Bush by 493
Certified Result (official final count)  
•  Recounts included from Volusia and Broward only Bush by 537

Response to the problems

Electronic voting

Since the Presidential Election was so close and hotly contested in Florida, the U.S. Government and state governments have pushed for election reform to be prepared by the 2004 U.S. Presidential Election. Many of Florida's year 2000 election night problems stemmed from voting machine issues like rejected ballots, "hanging chads", and the possibly confusing "butterfly ballot". An opportunistic solution to these problems was assumed to be the installation of modern electronic voting machines.

Electronic voting was initially touted by many as a panacea for the ills faced during the 2000 election. In years following, such machines were questioned for a lack of a redundant paper trail, less than ideal security standards, and low tolerance for software or hardware problems. The U.S. Presidential Election of 2000 spurred the debate about election and voting reform, but it did not end it. See Electronic voting: problems.

Exit polling and declaration of vote winners

The Voter News Service's reputation was badly tarnished by its treatment of Florida's presidential vote in the year 2000. Calling the state as a win for Gore 12 minutes before polls closed in Florida's central time zone may have affected the vote results, and inconsistent polling results caused the VNS to change its call twice, first from Gore to Bush, and then to "too close to call". An attempt by VNS to use computer tallying during the 2002 congressional election was a failure, and the VNS disbanded.

Media post-electoral studies/recounts

After the election, USA Today, The Miami Herald, and Knight Ridder commissioned accounting firm BDO Seidman to count undervotes, that is, ballots which did not register any vote when counted by machine. BDO Seidman's results, reported in USA Today [7], show that under the strictest standard, where only a cleanly punched ballot with a fully removed chad was counted, Gore won by three votes. Under all other standards, Bush won, with Bush's margin increasing as looser standards were used. The standards considered by BDO Seidman were:

  • Lenient standard. Any alteration in a chad, ranging from a dimple to a full punch, counts as a vote. By this standard, Bush won by 1,665 votes.
  • Palm Beach standard. A dimple is counted as a vote if other races on the same ballot show dimples as well. By this standard, Bush won by 884 votes.
  • Two-corner standard. A chad with two or more corners removed is counted as a vote. This is the most common standard in use. By this standard, Bush won by 363 votes.
  • Strict standard. Only a fully removed chad counts as a vote. By this standard, Gore won by 3 votes.

The study remarks that because of the possibility of mistakes, it is difficult to conclude that Gore was surely the winner under the strict standard. It also remarks that there are variations between examiners, and that election officials often did not provide the same number of undervotes as were counted on Election Day. Furthermore, the study did not consider overvotes, ballots which registered more than one vote when counted by machine.

The study also found that undervotes break down into two distinct types, those coming from punch-card using counties, and those coming from optical-scan using counties. Undervotes from punch-card using counties give new votes to candidates in roughly the same proportion as the county's official vote. Furthermore, the number of undervotes correlates with how well the punch-card machines are maintained, and not with factors such as race or socioeconomic status. Undervotes from optical-scan using counties, however, correlate with Democratic votes more than Republican votes. Optical-scan counties were the only places in the study where Gore gained more votes than Bush, 1,036 to 775.

A larger consortium of news organizations, including the USA Today, the Miami Herald, Knight Ridder, the Tampa Tribune, and five other newspapers next conducted a full recount of all ballots, including both undervotes and overvotes. According to their results, under stricter standards for vote counting, Bush won, and under looser standards, Gore won. [8] However, a Gore win was impossible without a recount of overvotes, which he did not request.

According to the study, only 3% of the 111,261 overvotes had markings that could be interpreted as a legal vote. According to Anthony Salvado, a political scientist at the University of California, Irvine, who acted as a consultant on the media recount, most of the errors were caused by ballot design, ballot wording, and efforts by voters to choose both a president and a vice-president. For example, 21,188 of the Florida overvotes, or nearly one-fifth of the total, originated from Duval County, where the presidential race was split across two pages. Voters were instructed to "vote every page". Half of the overvotes in Duval County had one presidential candidate marked on each page, making their vote illegal under Florida law. Salvado says that this error alone cost Gore the election.

Including overvotes in the above totals for undervotes gives different margins of victory:

  • Lenient standard. Gore by 332 votes.
  • Palm Beach standard. Gore by 242 votes.
  • Two-corner standard. Bush by 407 votes.
  • Strict standard. Bush by 152 votes.

Democrats also blamed third party candidate Ralph Nader for taking the election away from Gore. Some say had Nader not run, Gore would have won both New Hampshire and Florida and won the election with 296 electoral votes. (He only needed one of the two to win) However, it is worth noting that approximately 8 million Democrats voted for Bush.

In 2003, US citizens living in the state of Florida were asked who they voted for in the 2000 Election as part of the Statistical Abstract Census. The results showed President Bush receiving more than 1000 votes more than former Vice President Gore. However this result was badly tarnished when it was discovered that the man responsible for this census had links to the original Bush campaign in 2000.

See also

Template:Uspresidentialelections

References

External links

sk:Prezidentské voľby v USA v roku 2000 zh:2000年美国总统选举