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The Contested Election of 2000

This is one contested election I can vividly recall. It was history in the making. We went to bed for the first time in decades not knowing who our president was. Things happened that had never been seen before. Who won? Al Gore? George W. Bush? We didn't know for three weeks who the next president was to be.

the-contested-election-of-2000

The Candidates

This election that would decide the President to begin the 21st century was between a vice-president and a governor. Each had many decades of political experience under their belt and loyal followers who stood by them.

George W. Bush - The governor of Texas for six years, Bush was the son of a former president was had also been head of the CIA. To say that politics was in his veins would be an understatement. He won the Republican nomination in hopes replacing the two term Democrat Bill Clinton.

Al Gore - A US Congressman, Gore was the son of a Senator and was born in the nation's capital. His entire life revolved around the political scene with his crowning political achievement becoming a two-term vice-president. Democrats saw him as the only legitimate choice after having worked so close with the White House for so many years.

The actual campaign for this election wasn't any worse than others before it or since. What made this a contested election was the actual election day and the weeks that followed.

The Votes

We've noted previous elections as close, but there has never been an election that has been this close. It all came down to one state. When the results came in

on election day, Gore won the popular vote by over half a million votes. Bush carried most states in the South, the rural Midwest, and the Rocky Mountain region, while Gore won most states in the Northeast, the upper Midwest, and the Pacific Coast. Gore garnered 255 electoral votes to Bush’s 246, but neither candidate won the 270 electoral votes necessary for victory. Election results in some states, including New Mexico and Oregon, were too close to call, but it was Florida, with its 25 electoral votes, on which the outcome of the election hinged. (KhanAcademy.org)

Gore won! Bush won! Nobody knows who won! That was the feeling of that night as I remember. It was back and forth all because the news crews based their information on flawed exit polls. To sum it up, The Washington Post described what happened was caused by "a sample of precincts that was too Democratic, a mysterious miscount of the votes in the Jacksonville area and some bad assumptions led Voter News Service, the television network exit poll consortium, to make and then retract two dramatic election-night predictions on the winner of the presidential race in Florida." (WashingtonPost) The pollsters chose the wrong pond to pull from and then there was questionable votes. That wasn't new in 2000, but most people including the media made it appear so. There is a degree of fraud in every election. 2000 wasn't the first time. But it did show some flaws that needed to be addressed.

Accusations of fraud was rampant as the biggest state in question was governed by the brother of Bush. Then there were accusations of not counting the absentee ballots of the military who normally swing Republican. Fraud was called by both sides.

Gore sued for more recounts and more recounts. The result was that a winner was not declared for three weeks after election day, the longest time ever. But that wasn't the end. Protests from Gore and his supports pushed this quickly into the Supreme Court. That took another two weeks before it was determined that Bush was the actual winner. Official numbers are...

Bush won 50.456,002 of the popular vote - 47.9 %.

Gore won 50,999,897 of the popular vote - 48.4%

In the electoral college, Bush won 271 votes and Gore won 266 votes. (You get more details on the actual final count by state at infoplease.com.)

The Results

A large majority of American agreed that the method of voting across the country needed to be looked at. The election of 2000 showed just how different every state was and how fraud or mechanical issues could slip in and change the whole picture. I want to note there that the method of voting is determined at the state level. The national government does not dictate how the votes are gathered.

But some good results did come out of it. Vanity Fair says, "“Butterfly ballots” are gone, so there will be no more accidental votes for fringe candidates such as Pat Buchanan. Chads—dimpled, hanging, pregnant—are history, for the punch-card machines that used them have been decertified. In their place are sleek, new electronic voting machines, known as D.R.E.’s (direct-recording electronic voting machines)."

Another aspect that came out of this that wasn't so good was the new tendency to fight for results in the courts. While there have been contested elections at all levels, this one seemed to open the door for approved court cases non-stop until you get the results you want. Don't like your party losing? Sue for recounts, accuse the other side of fraud, make noise. And the media and social media outlets lap it up. They so love a good fight. Now nearly every election at every level has someone officially challenging and accusing.

This became known as the "Hanging Chad" election. An historical moment that will haunt American politics for years as many on the Democratic side still do not acknowledge Bush as the legitimate president.

Comments

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on September 15, 2021:

I well remember those "hanging chads" from that election. At least they took care of that so it no longer happens.

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