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U.S. presidential election, 2000
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U.S. presidential election, 2000

The election for President of the United States in 2000 was one of the closest elections in the history of the United States, contested primarily by then Governor of Texas George W. Bush (Republican), and then Vice President Al Gore (Democrat).

Table of contents
1 Introduction and summary results
2 Primaries
3 Campaigns
4 Overview, and timeline (Election Day and beyond)
5 Florida election results
6 Minor party candidates
7 Media post-electoral studies/recounts
8 Abstention of D.C. elector
9 See also:
10 References/external links

Introduction and summary results

Presidential CandidateElectoral Vote Popular Vote Pct Party Running Mate
(Electoral Votes)
George Walker Bush of Texas (W) 271 50,456,002 47.87 Republican Richard Bruce Cheney of Wyoming (271)
Albert Arnold Gore, Jr of Tennessee 266 50,999,897 48.38 Democrat Joseph Isadore Lieberman of Connecticut (266)
Ralph Nader of Connecticut 0 2,882,955 2.74 Green Winona LaDuke of Minnesota (0)
Patrick J. Buchanan of Virginia 0 448,895 0.42 Reform Ezola Foster of California (0)
Harry Browne of Tennessee 0 384,431 0.36 Libertarian Art Olivier of California (0)
Howard Phillips of Virginia 0 98,020 0.09 Constitution J. Curtis Frazier of Missouri (0)
John Hagelin of Iowa 0 83,714 0.08 Natural Law/Reform Nat Goldhaber of California (0)
Other 0 51,186 0.05
No electoral vote cast (DC: see below) 1
Total 538 105,405,100 100.00
Detailed results by state: see U.S. presidential election, 2000 (detail)
Other elections: 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008, 2012
Sources: U.S. Office of the Federal Register (electoral vote), Federal Election Commission (popular vote)

The election took over a month to resolve, highlighted by two premature declarations of a "winner" on election night and an extremely close result in the state of Florida. Florida's 25 electoral votes ultimately decided the election by a razor thin margin of actual votes, and was certified only after numerous court challenges and recounts. Al Gore publicly conceded the election after the Supreme Court, in the case Bush v. Gore, voted 7-2 to declare the recount procedure in process unconstitutional because it was not being carried out statewide and 5-4 to ban further recounts using other procedures. Gore strongly disagreed with the court's decision, but decided that "for the sake of our unity of the people and the strength of our democracy, I offer my concession." He had previously made a concession phone call to Bush the night of the election, but quickly retracted it after learning just how close the election was. Following the election, a subsequent recount conducted by various U.S. news media organizations indicated that Bush would have won using some of the recount methods (including the one favored by Gore at the time of the Supreme Court decision) but that Gore would have won if other methods were adopted.

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 United States 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, because of the security weaknesses of the computer systems, the lack of paper-based methods of secure verification, and the necessity to rely on the trustworthiness of the manufacturers.


See: US presidential primaries of 2000

Overview, and timeline (Election Day and beyond)

The 2000 Presidential election was among the closest elections in the history of the United States. Other close elections include the elections of 1800 (with a tie in electoral votes), 1876, 1916, 1960, 1968, and 1976.

The results of the November 7 election were not known for more than a month after the election, because the counting and recounting of Florida presidential ballots, which swung the election, extended for more than a month. The Florida vote was the closest of all of the states and state law provided for an automatic recount due to the small difference, and 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.

The Democratic Party lodged a dispute over the state's election results requesting that disputed ballots in three heavily-Democratic counties be counted by hand. 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 in which it was ordered that the recounting process proceed. The Bush campaign subsequently appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States which took up the case Bush v. Gore on December 1. On December 4, the court nullified the decision of the Florida Supreme Court saying that the court's decision to bypass state election laws, which stated that results had to be certified by a certain date, was dubious at best saying that there was "considerable uncertainty" as to the precise grounds for their ruling.

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.

All the lower court rulings became moot when around 10pm on December 12, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down two decisions in favor of Bush, the critical one 7-2 and the other 5-4, effectively ending the election. The court's majority cited differing vote-counting standards from county to county and the lack of a single judicial officer to oversee the recount, both of which, it ruled, violated the equal protection clause of the United States Constitution, and so any recount could not be completed in a constitutional manner.

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

Texas Governor George W. Bush became President-elect and began forming his transition committee. Bush tried 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 Congress met to certify the U.S. Electoral College vote. Although several members of the House of Representatives filed objections to the electoral votes of Florida, they were ruled out of order because they were not signed by a Senator.

Bush took the oath of office on January 20.

The Electoral College vote was so close that a shift from Bush to Gore in almost any state won by Bush would have swung the election to Gore (271 Electoral College votes for Bush and 266 for Gore).

Vice President Al Gore came in second even though he received a larger number of popular votes (Gore got 500,000 more popular votes than Bush) and this contributed to the controversy of the election. This was at least 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 probably being in the 1824 elections although popular vote records do not exist for earlier elections. Until this election, the 1876 elections had been the most contentious in U.S. history. However, it should be pointed out that if the American system were based on the popular vote, rather than the Electoral College, then the turnout of voters would have been different. Voter turnout in states that favor one party heavily tends to be lower. Because of this, the popular vote cannot be used to predict who would have won an actual popular vote election.

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 Bush hours after all the polls had closed (leading to questions about the influence of biased national new 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 3 counties be recounted by hand, which is within their rights under Florida election law. The Bush campaign then sued in Federal court to stop the hand recounts. This case eventually reached the United States Supreme Court, which ruled 5-4 to stop the vote count, effectively declaring Bush the winner. The Supreme Court also found that the additional recounts requested by Gore to be unconstitutional, in a 7-2 vote.

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 Democrat
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. Listed below are the various controversies that have arisen.

See also: ChoicePoint and Greg Palast

The Florida Ballot Project recounts

The Florida Ballot Project at the University of Chicago, sponsored by a consortium of major U.S. News organizations, conducted a comprehensive review all uncounted ballots in the Florida 2000 presidential election, and reported how different layouts correlate with voter mistakes. Its findings were reported by the media during the week after November 12 2001. Recounts showed mixed results. Gore would have won any state-wide recount in which all of the ballots were counted. However, Bush would have won a recount if just smaller subsets of ballots were counted. Here is a summary of the NORC recount results performed using different counting standards, as seen in a report by one of the Washington Post journalists who ran the consortium recount. [1]

Candidate Outcomes Based on Potential Recounts in Florida Presidential Election 2000
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 Never 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

Since the Presidential Election was so close and hotly contested in Florida, the U.S. Government and state governments have pushed for election reform, usually consisting of 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.

Minor party candidates

There were five other candidates on the majority of the 51 ballots (50 states plus the
District of Columbia): Harry Browne (Libertarian, 50), Pat Buchanan (Reform, 49), Ralph Nader (Green, 44), Howard Phillips (Constitution, 41), and John Hagelin (Natural Law, 38).

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.[1] 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.

Media post-electoral studies/recounts

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.

Abstention of D.C. elector

One elector from the District of Columbia, Barbara Lett-Simmons, abstained from voting in the Electoral College, in protest of the District's lack of a voting representative in Congress. D.C. does have a non-voting delegate to Congress.

See also:

References/external links