The United States presidential election of 2000 was the 54th quadrennial presidential election. It was held on Tuesday, November 7, 2000. Republican candidate George W. Bush, the Governor of Texas and the eldest son of the 41st President George H. W. Bush, narrowly defeated Democratic nominee Al Gore, the incumbent vice president. It was the fourth of five presidential elections in which the winning candidate lost the popular vote.
Incumbent Democratic President Bill Clinton was ineligible to serve a third term due to the term limits established by the 22nd Amendment. Vice President Gore was able to secure the Democratic nomination with relative ease, defeating a challenge by former Senator Bill Bradley. Bush was seen as the early favorite for the Republican nomination and, despite a contentious primary battle with Senator John McCain and other candidates, secured the nomination by Super Tuesday. Bush chose former Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney as his running mate, while Gore chose Senator Joe Lieberman as his. The left-wing Green Party nominated a ticket consisting of political activists Ralph Nader and Winona LaDuke.
Both major party candidates focused primarily on domestic issues, such as the budget, tax relief, and reforms for federal social insurance programs, although foreign policy was not ignored. Due to Clinton's sex scandal with Monica Lewinsky and subsequent impeachment, Gore avoided campaigning with Clinton. Republicans denounced Clinton's indiscretions, while Gore criticized Bush's alleged lack of experience.
On election night, it was unclear who had won, with the electoral votes of the state of Florida still undecided. The returns showed that Bush had won Florida by such a close margin that state law required a recount. A series of legal battles led to the contentious, 5–4 Supreme Court decision of Bush v. Gore, which ended the recount. With the end of the recount, Bush won Florida by a margin .009%, or 537 votes. The Florida recount and subsequent litigation resulted in a major post-election controversy, and various individuals and organizations have speculated about who would have won the election in various scenarios. Ultimately, Bush won 271 electoral votes, one more than was necessary for the majority, and narrowly lost the popular vote to Gore. Nader won 2.7% of the popular vote, and many Democrats criticized Nader for allegedly splitting the left-wing vote.
|United States presidential election, 2000|
Only 537 electoral votes (1 abstaining) of the Electoral College
270 electoral votes needed to win
|Turnout||51.2% 2.2 pp|
Article Two of the United States Constitution provides that the President and Vice President of the United States must be natural-born citizens of the United States, at least 35 years old, and a resident of the United States for a period of at least 14 years. Candidates for the presidency typically seek the nomination of one of the political parties of the United States, in which case each party devises a method (such as a primary election) to choose the candidate the party deems best suited to run for the position. Traditionally, the primary elections are indirect elections where voters cast ballots for a slate of party delegates pledged to a particular candidate. The party's delegates then officially nominate a candidate to run on the party's behalf. The general election in November is also an indirect election, where voters cast ballots for a slate of members of the Electoral College; these electors in turn directly elect the President and Vice President.
President Bill Clinton, a Democrat and former Governor of Arkansas, was ineligible to seek reelection to a third term due to restrictions of the Twenty-second Amendment. In accordance with Section I of the Twentieth Amendment, his term expired at 12:00 noon EST on January 20, 2001.
|Democratic Party Ticket, 2000|
|Al Gore||Joe Lieberman|
|for President||for Vice President|
Vice President of the United States
Al Gore from Tennessee was a consistent front-runner for the nomination. Other prominent Democrats mentioned as possible contenders included Bob Kerrey, Missouri Representative Dick Gephardt, Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone, and famous actor and director Warren Beatty, who declined to run. Of these, only Wellstone formed an exploratory committee.
Running an insurgency campaign, Bradley positioned himself as the alternative to Gore, who was a founding member of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council. While former basketball star 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". The focus of his campaign was a plan to spend the record-breaking budget surplus on a variety of social welfare programs to help the poor and the middle-class, along with campaign finance reform and gun control.
Gore easily defeated Bradley in the primaries, largely because of support from the Democratic Party establishment and Bradley's poor showing in the Iowa caucus, where Gore successfully painted Bradley as aloof and indifferent to the plight of farmers. The closest Bradley came to a victory was his 50–46 loss to Gore in the New Hampshire primary. On March 14, Al Gore clinched the Democratic nomination.
None of Bradley's delegates were allowed to vote for him, so Gore won the nomination unanimously at the Democratic National Convention. Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman was nominated for vice president by voice vote. Lieberman became the first Jewish American ever to be chosen for this position by a major party. Gore chose Lieberman over five finalists.
|Republican Party Ticket, 2000|
|George W. Bush||Dick Cheney|
|for President||for Vice President|
Governor of Texas
U.S. Secretary of Defense
George W. Bush became the early front-runner, acquiring unprecedented funding and a broad base of leadership support based on his governorship of Texas and the name recognition and connections of the Bush family. Former cabinet member George Shultz played an important early role in securing establishment Republican support for Bush. In April 1998, he invited Bush to discuss policy issues with experts including Michael Boskin, John Taylor, and Condoleezza Rice. The group, which was "looking for a candidate for 2000 with good political instincts, someone they could work with", was impressed, and Shultz encouraged him to enter the race. Several aspirants withdrew before the Iowa Caucus because they were unable to secure funding and endorsements sufficient to remain competitive with Bush. These included Elizabeth Dole, Dan Quayle, Lamar Alexander, and Bob Smith. Pat Buchanan dropped out to run for the Reform Party nomination. That left Bush, John McCain, Alan Keyes, Steve Forbes, Gary Bauer, and Orrin Hatch as the only candidates still in the race.
On January 24, Bush won the Iowa caucus with 41% of the vote. Forbes came in second with 30% of the vote. Keyes received 14%, Bauer 9%, McCain 5%, and Hatch 1%. Hatch dropped out. On the national stage, Bush was portrayed in the media as the establishment candidate. McCain, with the support of many moderate Republicans and Independents, portrayed himself as a crusading insurgent who focused on campaign reform.
On February 1, McCain won a 49–30% victory over Bush in the New Hampshire primary. Gary Bauer dropped out. After coming in third in Delaware Forbes dropped out, leaving three candidates. In the South Carolina primary, Bush soundly defeated McCain. Some McCain supporters blamed it on the Bush campaign, accusing them of mudslinging and dirty tricks, such as push polling that implied that McCain's adopted Bangladeshi-born daughter was an African-American child he fathered out of wedlock. While McCain's loss in South Carolina damaged his campaign, he won both Michigan and his home state of Arizona on February 22. The primary election that year also affected the South Carolina State House, when a controversy about the Confederate flag flying over the capitol dome prompted the state legislature to move the flag to a less prominent position at a Civil War memorial on the capitol grounds. Most GOP candidates said the issue should be left to South Carolina voters, though McCain later recanted and said the flag should be removed.
On February 24, McCain criticized Bush for accepting the endorsement of Bob Jones University despite its policy banning interracial dating. On February 28, McCain also referred to Rev. Jerry Falwell and televangelist Pat Robertson as "agents of intolerance", a term he would later distance himself from during his 2008 bid. He lost the state of Virginia to Bush on February 29. On Super Tuesday, March 7, Bush won New York, Ohio, Georgia, Missouri, California, Maryland, and Maine. McCain won Rhode Island, Vermont, Connecticut, and Massachusetts, but dropped out of the race. McCain would eventually become the Republican presidential nominee 8 years later, which he then lost to Barack Obama. On March 10, Alan Keyes got 21% of the vote in Utah. Bush took the majority of the remaining contests and won the Republican nomination on March 14, winning his home state of Texas and his brother Jeb's home state of Florida among others. At the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia George W. Bush accepted the nomination of the Republican party.
Bush asked former Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney to head up a team to help select a running mate for him, but ultimately, Bush decided that Cheney himself should be the vice presidential nominee. While the U.S. Constitution does not specifically disallow a president and a vice president from the same state, it does prohibit electors from casting both of his or her votes for persons from his or her own state. Accordingly, Cheney—who had been a resident of Texas for nearly 10 years—changed his voting registration back to Wyoming. Had Cheney not done this, either he or Bush would have forfeited their electoral votes from the Texas electors.
The nomination went to Pat Buchanan and running mate Ezola Foster from California, over the objections of party founder Ross Perot and despite a rump convention nomination of John Hagelin by the Perot faction (see Other nominations below). In the end, the Federal Election Commission sided with Buchanan, and that ticket appeared on 49 of 51 possible ballots.
The Libertarian Party's National Nominating Convention nominated Harry Browne from Tennessee and Art Olivier from California for president and vice president respectively. Browne was nominated on the first ballot and Olivier received the vice presidential nomination on the second ballot. Browne appeared on every state ballot except for Arizona, due to a dispute between the Libertarian Party of Arizona (who instead nominated L. Neil Smith) and the national Libertarian Party.
The Natural Law Party held its national convention in Arlington, Virginia, August 31 – September 2, nominating a ticket of Hagelin/Goldhaber via unanimous decision without a roll-call vote. The party was on 38 of the 51 ballots nationally.
Although the campaign focused mainly on domestic issues, such as the projected budget surplus, proposed reforms of Social Security and Medicare, health care, and competing plans for tax relief, foreign policy was often an issue. Bush criticized Clinton administration policies in Somalia, where 18 Americans died in 1993 trying to sort out warring factions, and in the Balkans, where United States 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. Bush also pledged to bridge partisan gaps in the nation's capital, claiming the atmosphere in Washington stood in the way of progress on necessary reforms. Gore, meanwhile, questioned Bush's fitness for the job, pointing to gaffes made by Bush in interviews and speeches and suggesting the Texas governor lacked the necessary experience to be president.
Bill Clinton's impeachment and the sex scandal that led up to it cast a shadow on the campaign, particularly on his vice president's run to replace him. Republicans strongly denounced the Clinton scandals, particularly Bush, who made his repeated promise to restore "honor and dignity" to the White House a centerpiece of his campaign. Gore studiously avoided the Clinton scandals, as did Lieberman, even though Lieberman had been the first Democratic senator to denounce Clinton's misbehavior. In fact, some media observers theorized that Gore actually chose Lieberman in an attempt to separate himself from Clinton's past misdeeds, and help blunt the GOP's attempts to link him to his boss. Others pointed to the passionate kiss Gore gave his wife during the Democratic Convention, as a signal that despite the allegations against Clinton, Gore himself was a faithful husband. Gore avoided appearing with Clinton, who was shunted to low visibility appearances in areas where he was popular. Experts have argued that this could have cost Gore votes from some of Clinton's core supporters.
Ralph Nader was the most successful of third-party candidates. His campaign was marked by a traveling tour of large "super-rallies" held in sports arenas like Madison Square Garden, with retired talk show host Phil Donahue as master of ceremonies. After initially ignoring Nader, the Gore campaign made a pitch to potential Nader supporters in the final weeks of the campaign, downplaying Gore's differences with Nader on the issues and arguing that Gore's ideas were more similar to Nader's than Bush's were, and 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 an effort to split the liberal vote. Nader claimed his objective in the campaign was to pass the 5-percent threshold so his Green Party would be eligible for matching funds in future races.
Both vice presidential candidates Dick Cheney and Joe Lieberman campaigned aggressively in the 2000 presidential election. Both camps made numerous campaign stops nationwide, often just missing each other such as when Cheney, Hadassah Lieberman, and Tipper Gore attended Chicago's Taste of Polonia over Labor Day Weekend.
There were three presidential debates:
There was also one vice-presidential debate:
After the 1996 presidential election, the Commission on Presidential Debates set new candidate selection criteria. The new criteria required third-party candidates to poll at least 15% of the vote in national polls in order to take part in the CPD-sponsored presidential debates. Ralph Nader was blocked from attending a closed circuit screening of the first debate in spite of his holding a ticket. He was barred from attending an interview near the site of the third debate in spite of having a "perimeter pass". Nader later sued the CPD for its role in the former incident. A settlement was reached that included an apology to Nader.
With the exceptions of Florida and Gore's home state of Tennessee, Bush carried the Southern states by comfortable margins (including then-President Bill Clinton's home state of Arkansas) and also secured wins in Ohio, Indiana, most of the rural Midwestern farming states, most of the Rocky Mountain states, and Alaska. Gore balanced Bush by sweeping the Northeastern United States (with the sole exception of New Hampshire, which Bush won narrowly), most of the Upper Midwest, and all of the Pacific Coast states as well as Hawaii and New Mexico.
As the night wore on, the returns in a handful of small-to-medium-sized states, including Wisconsin and Iowa, were extremely close; however, it was the state of Florida that would decide the winner of the election. As the final national results were tallied the following morning, Bush had clearly won a total of 246 electoral votes, while Gore had won 249 votes. Two hundred and seventy votes were needed to win. Two smaller states — Wisconsin (10 electoral votes) and Oregon (7 electoral votes) — were still too close to call. It was Florida (25 electoral votes), however, on which the news media focused its attention. Mathematically, Florida's 25 electoral votes became the key to an election win for either candidate. Although both Wisconsin and Oregon were declared in favor of Gore over the next few days, Florida's statewide vote took center stage because that state's winner would ultimately win the election. The outcome of the election was not known for more than a month after the balloting ended because of the time required to count and recount Florida's presidential ballots.
Between 7:50 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. EST on election day, just before the polls closed in the largely Republican Florida panhandle, which is in the Central time zone, all major television news networks (CNN, NBC, FOX, CBS and ABC) declared that Gore had carried Florida's 25 electoral votes. They based this prediction substantially on exit polls. However, in the actual vote tally Bush began to take a wide lead early in Florida, and by 10 p.m. EST the networks had retracted that prediction and placed Florida back into the "undecided" column. At approximately 2:30 a.m., with some 85% of the votes counted in Florida and Bush leading Gore by more than 100,000 votes, the networks declared that Bush had carried Florida and therefore had been elected president. However, most of the remaining votes to be counted in Florida were located in three heavily Democratic counties—Broward, Miami-Dade, and Palm Beach—and as their votes were reported Gore began to gain on Bush. By 4:30 a.m., after all votes were counted, Gore had narrowed Bush's margin to under 2,000 votes, and the networks retracted their predictions that Bush had won Florida and the presidency. Gore, who had privately conceded the election to Bush, withdrew his concession. The final result in Florida was slim enough to require a mandatory recount (by machine) under state law; Bush's lead dwindled to just over 900 votes when it was completed the day after the election. On November 8, Florida Division of Elections staff prepared a press release for Secretary of State Harris that said overseas ballots must be "postmarked or signed and dated" by Election Day. It was never released.:16 A count of the overseas ballots later boosted Bush's margin to 930 votes. (According to a report by The New York Times, 680 of the accepted overseas ballots were received after the legal deadline, lacked required postmarks, were unsigned or undated, cast after election day, from unregistered voters or voters not requesting ballots, lacked a witness signature or address, or were double-counted.)
Most of the post-electoral controversy revolved around Gore's request for hand recounts in four counties (Broward, Miami Dade, Palm Beach, and Volusia), as provided under Florida state law. Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris (also the co-chair of George W. Bush's election efforts in Florida) announced she would reject any revised totals from those counties if they were not turned in by 5:00 p.m. on November 14, the statutory deadline for amended returns. The Florida Supreme Court extended the deadline to November 26, a decision later vacated by the U.S. Supreme Court. Miami-Dade eventually halted its recount and resubmitted its original total to the state canvassing board, while Palm Beach County failed to meet the extended deadline, turning in its completed recount results at 7:00 p.m., which Harris indeed rejected. On November 26, the state canvassing board certified Bush the winner of Florida's electors by 537 votes. Gore formally contested the certified results. A state court decision overruling Gore was reversed by the Florida Supreme Court, which ordered a recount of over 70,000 ballots previously rejected as undervotes by machine counters. The U.S. Supreme Court halted that order the next day, with Justice Scalia issuing a concurring opinion that "the counting of votes that are of questionable legality does in my view threaten irreparable harm to petitioner" (Bush).
On December 12, the Supreme Court ruled in a 7–2 vote that the Florida Supreme Court's ruling requiring a statewide recount of ballots was unconstitutional on equal protection grounds, and in a 5–4 vote reversed and remanded the case to the Florida Supreme Court for modification prior to the optional "safe harbor" deadline, which the Florida court had said the state intended to meet. With only two hours remaining until the December 12 deadline, the Supreme Court's order effectively ended the recount, and the previously certified total held.
Even if the Supreme Court had decided differently in Bush v. Gore, the Florida Legislature had been meeting in Special Session since December 8 with the sole stated purpose being the selection of a slate of electors on December 12, should the dispute still be ongoing. Had the recount gone forward, it would have awarded those electors to Bush, based on the state-certified vote, and the likely last recourse for Gore would have been to contest the electors in the United States Congress. The electors would then only have been rejected if both GOP-controlled houses had agreed to reject them.
Though Gore came in second in the electoral vote, he received 547,398 more popular votes than Bush, making him the first person since Grover Cleveland in 1888 to win the popular vote but lose in the Electoral College. Gore failed to win the popular vote in his home state, Tennessee, which both he and his father had represented in the Senate, making him the first major-party presidential candidate to have lost his home state since George McGovern lost South Dakota in 1972. Furthermore, Gore lost West Virginia, a state that had voted Republican only once in the previous six presidential elections, and Bill Clinton's home state of Arkansas, which had voted twice before to elect Gore vice president. A victory in any of these three states would have given Gore enough electoral votes to win the presidency.
Bush is also the first Republican in American history to win the presidency without winning Vermont or Illinois, the second Republican to win the presidency without winning California (James A. Garfield in 1880 was the first) or Pennsylvania (Richard Nixon in 1968 was the first), and the first winning Republican not to receive any electoral votes from California (Garfield received one vote in 1880). Bush also lost in Connecticut, the state of his birth. This election marks the last time a Republican won the presidency without winning Iowa. As of 2016, Bush is the last Republican nominee to win New Hampshire, while Gore is the last losing candidate to win Iowa. There were only two counties in the entire nation that voted Democratic in 2000 and that had voted Republican in 1996. Those were Charles County, Maryland; and Orange County Florida, both rapidly diversifying counties. The 2000 election was also the last time a Republican won a number of populous urban counties that have since turned into Democratic strongholds. These include Mecklenburg County, North Carolina (Charlotte); Marion County, Indiana (Indianapolis), Fairfax County, Virginia (DC Suburbs), and Travis County, Texas (Austin). In 2016, the most recent Presidential Election, Republican Donald Trump lost Mecklenburg by 30%, Marion by 23%, Fairfax by 36%, and Travis by 38%. Conversely, as of 2017 Gore is the last Democrat to have won any counties at all in Oklahoma.
|Presidential candidate||Party||Home state||Popular vote||Electoral
|Count||Percentage||Vice-presidential candidate||Home state||Electoral vote|
|George Walker Bush||Republican||Texas||50,462,412||47.87%||271||Richard Bruce Cheney||Wyoming||271|
|Albert Arnold Gore, Jr.||Democratic||Tennessee||50,999,897||48.38%||266||Joseph Isadore Lieberman||Connecticut||266|
|Ralph Nader||Green||Connecticut||2,882,955||2.74%||0||Winona LaDuke||Minnesota||0|
|Pat Buchanan||Reform||Virginia||448,895||0.43%||0||Ezola B. Foster||California||0|
|Harry Browne||Libertarian||Tennessee||384,431||0.36%||0||Art Olivier||California||0|
|Howard Phillips||Constitution||Virginia||98,020||0.09%||0||Curtis Frazier||Missouri||0|
|John Hagelin||Natural Law||Iowa||83,714||0.08%||0||Nat Goldhaber||California||0|
|Needed to win||270||270|
States where the margin of victory was less than 1% (55 electoral votes):
States where the margin of victory was less than 5% (84 electoral votes):
States where the margin of victory was more than 5% but less than 10% (84 electoral votes):
Data comes from https://web.archive.org/web/20120825102042/http://www.mit.edu/~mi22295/elections.html#2000, a U.S. government document.
|States/districts won by Gore/Lieberman|
|States/districts won by Bush/Cheney|
|George W. Bush
★The Libertarian Party of Arizona had ballot access, but opted to supplant Browne with L. Neil Smith. Thus, in Arizona, Smith received 5,775 votes, constituting 0.38% of the Arizona vote. When adding Smith's 5,775 votes to Browne's 384,431 votes nationwide, that brings the total votes cast for president for the Libertarian Party in 2000 to 390,206, or 0.37% of the vote.
†Maine and Nebraska each allow for their electoral votes to be split between candidates. In both states, two electoral votes are awarded to the winner of the statewide race and one electoral vote is awarded to the winner of each congressional district. The following table records the official presidential vote tallies for Maine and Nebraska's congressional districts.
|Maine's 1st congressional district||1||148,618||42.59%||176,293||50.52%||20,297||5.82%||1,994||0.57%||1,479||0.42%||253||0.07%||–||–||17||0.00%||–27,675||–7.93%||348,951|
|Maine's 2nd congressional district||1||137,998||45.56%||143,658||47.43%||16,830||5.56%||2,449||0.81%||1,595||0.53%||326||0.11%||–||–||10||0.00%||–5,660||–1.87%||302,866|
|Nebraska's 1st congressional district||1||142,562||58.90%||86,946||35.92%||10,085||4.17%||1,324||0.55%||754||0.31%||167||0.07%||185||0.08%||–||–||55,616||22.98%||242,023|
|Nebraska's 2nd congressional district||1||131,485||56.92%||88,975||38.52%||8,495||3.68%||845||0.37%||925||0.40%||146||0.06%||141||0.06%||–||–||42,510||18.40%||231,012|
|Nebraska's 3rd congressional district||1||159,815||71.35%||55,859||24.94%||5,960||2.66%||1,477||0.66%||566||0.25%||155||0.07%||152||0.07%||–||–||103,956||46.41%||223,984|
|Presidential ticket||Party||Ballot access||Votes|
|Gore / Lieberman||Democratic||50+DC||50,999,897|
|Bush / Cheney||Republican||50+DC||50,456,002|
|Nader / LaDuke||Green||43+DC||2,882,955|
|Buchanan / Foster||Reform||49||448,895|
|Browne / Olivier||Libertarian||49+DC★||384,431★|
|Phillips / Frazier||Constitution||41||98,020|
|Hagelin / Goldhaber||Natural Law||38||83,714|
★Although the Libertarian Party had ballot access in all fifty United States plus D.C., Browne's name only appeared on the ballot in forty-nine United States plus D.C. The Libertarian Party of Arizona opted to place L. Neil Smith on the ballot in Browne's place. When adding Smith's 5,775 Arizona votes to Browne's 384,431 votes nationwide, that brings the total presidential votes cast for the Libertarian Party in 2000 to 390,206.
After Florida was decided and Gore conceded, Texas Governor George W. Bush became the president-elect and began forming his transition committee. In a speech on December 13, in the Texas House of Representatives chamber, Bush stated he was reaching across party lines to bridge a divided America, saying, "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 electoral vote. 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. However, pursuant to the Electoral Count Act of 1887, any such objection had to be sponsored by both a representative and a senator. No senator would co-sponsor these objections, deferring to the Supreme Court's ruling. Therefore, Gore, who presided in his capacity as President of the Senate, ruled each of these objections out of order.
Subsequently, the joint session of Congress certified the electoral votes from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Bush took the oath of office on January 20, 2001. He would serve for the next eight years. Gore has not, as of 2017, considered another presidential run, remaining neutral in the Democratic primaries of 2004, 2008, and 2016.
The first independent recount of undervotes was conducted by the Miami Herald and USA Today. The commission found that under most scenarios for completion of the initiated recounts, Bush would have won the election; however, Gore would have won using the most generous standards for undervotes.
Ultimately, a media consortium—comprising The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Tribune Co. (parent of the Los Angeles Times), Associated Press, CNN, The Palm Beach Post and the St. Petersburg Times—hired NORC at the University of Chicago to examine 175,010 ballots that were collected from the entire state, not just the disputed counties that were recounted; these ballots contained undervotes (ballots with no machine-detected choice made for president) and overvotes (ballots with more than one choice marked). Their goal was to determine the reliability and accuracy of the systems used for the voting process. Based on the NORC review, the media group concluded that if the disputes over all the ballots in question had been resolved by applying statewide any of five standards that would have met Florida's legal standard for recounts, the electoral result would have been reversed and Gore would have won by 60 to 171 votes. (Any analysis of NORC data requires, for each punch ballot, at least two of the three ballot reviewers' codes to agree or instead, for all three to agree.) For all undervotes and overvotes statewide, these five standards are:
Such a statewide review including all uncounted votes was a tangible possibility, as Leon County Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis, whom the Florida Supreme Court had assigned to oversee the statewide recount, had scheduled a hearing for December 13 (mooted by the U.S. Supreme Court's final ruling on the 12th) to consider the question of including overvotes as well as undervotes. Subsequent statements by Judge Lewis and internal court documents support the likelihood of including overvotes in the recount. Florida State University professor of public policy Lance deHaven-Smith observed that, even considering only undervotes, "under any of the five most reasonable interpretations of the Florida Supreme Court ruling, Gore does, in fact, more than make up the deficit". Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting's analysis of the NORC study and media coverage of it supports these interpretations and criticizes the coverage of the study by media outlets such as The New York Times and the other media consortium members.
Further, according to sociologists Christopher Uggen and Jeff Manza, the 2000 election might have gone to Al Gore if the disenfranchised population of Florida had voted. Florida law disenfranchises convicted felons, requiring individual applications to regain suffrage. In their 2002 American Sociological Review article, Uggen and Manza found that the released felon vote could have altered the outcome of seven senatorial races between 1978 and 2000, and the 2000 presidential election. Matt Ford noted their study concluded "if the state's 827,000 disenfranchised felons had voted at the same rate as other Floridians, Democratic candidate Al Gore would have won Florida—and the presidency—by more than 80,000 votes." The effect of Florida's law is such that in 2014 "[m]ore than one in ten Floridians – and nearly one in four African-American Floridians – are shut out of the polls because of felony convictions."
Because the 2000 presidential election was so close in Florida, the United States government and state governments pushed for election reform to be prepared by the 2004 presidential election. Many of Florida's year 2000 election night problems stemmed from usability and ballot design factors with voting systems, including the potentially confusing "butterfly ballot". Many voters had difficulties with the paper-based punch card voting machines and were either unable to understand the required process for voting or unable to perform the process. This resulted in an unusual amount of overvote (voting for more candidates than is allowed) and undervotes (voting for fewer than the minimum candidates, including none at all). Many undervotes were caused by voter error, unmaintained punch card voting booths, or errors having to do merely with the characteristics of punch card ballots (resulting in hanging, dimpled, or pregnant chads).
A proposed solution to these problems was the installation of modern electronic voting machines. The United States presidential election of 2000 spurred the debate about election and voting reform, but it did not end it.
In the aftermath of the election, the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) was passed to help states upgrade their election technology in the hopes of preventing similar problems in future elections. Unfortunately, the electronic voting systems that many states purchased to comply with HAVA actually caused problems in the presidential election of 2004.
The Voter News Service's reputation was damaged by its treatment of Florida's presidential vote in 2000. Breaking its own guidelines, VNS called the state as a win for Gore 12 minutes before polls closed in the Florida panhandle. Although most of the state is in the Eastern Time Zone, counties in the Florida panhandle, located in the Central Time Zone, had not yet closed their polls. Discrepancies between the results of exit polls and the actual vote count caused the VNS to change its call twice, first from Gore to Bush and then to "too close to call". Due in part to this (and other polling inaccuracies) the VNS was disbanded in 2003.
According to Bush adviser Karl Rove, exit polls early in the afternoon on election day showed Gore winning by three percentage points, but when the networks called the state for Gore, Bush led by about 75,000 votes in raw tallies from the Florida Secretary of State.
Also, charges of media bias were leveled against the networks by Republicans. They claimed that the networks called states more quickly for Al Gore than for George W. Bush. Congress held hearings on this matter, and the networks claimed to have no intentional bias in their election night reporting. However, a study of the calls made on election night 2000 indicated that states carried by Gore were called more quickly than states won by Bush; however, notable Bush states, like New Hampshire and Florida, were very close, and close Gore states like Iowa, Oregon, New Mexico and Wisconsin were called late as well.
The early call of Florida for Gore has been alleged to have cost Bush several close states, including Iowa, New Mexico, Oregon, and Wisconsin. In each of these states, Gore won by less than 10,000 votes, and the polls closed after the networks called Florida for Gore. Because the Florida call was widely seen as an indicator that Gore had won the election, it is possible that it depressed Republican turnout in these states during the final hours of voting, giving Gore the slim margin by which he carried each of them. Had Bush carried all four of these states, he would have been able to win the electoral vote, even with a loss in Florida. Likewise, the call may have affected the outcome of the Senate election in Washington state, where incumbent Republican Slade Gorton was defeated by approximately 2,000 votes statewide.
Many Gore supporters claimed that third-party candidate Nader acted as a spoiler in the election since Nader votes could have been cast for Gore, and for instance, Nader allegedly threw the election outcome to Bush. Nader received 2.74 percent of the popular vote nationwide, getting 97,000 votes in Florida (by comparison, there were 111,251 overvotes) and 22,000 votes in New Hampshire, where Bush beat Gore by 7,000 votes. Winning either state would have won the general election for Gore. Defenders of Nader, including Dan Perkins, argued that the margin in Florida was small enough that Democrats could blame any number of third-party candidates for the defeat, including Workers World Party candidate Monica Moorehead, who received 1,500 votes. But the controversy with Nader also drained energy from the Democratic party as divisive debate went on in the months leading up to the election.
Nader's reputation was hurt by this perception, which may have hindered his goals as an activist. For example, Mother Jones wrote about the so-called "rank-and-file liberals" who saw Nader negatively after the election and pointed that Public Citizen, the organization Nader founded in 1971, had a new fundraising problem in its own founder, citing a drop in contributions. Mother Jones also cited a Public Citizen's letter sent out to people interested in Nader's relation with the organization at that time, with the disclaimer: "Although Ralph Nader was our founder, he has not held an official position in the organization since 1980 and does not serve on the board. Public Citizen—and the other groups that Mr. Nader founded—act independently."
Democratic party strategist and Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) chair Al From expressed a different view. In the January 24, 2001, issue of the DLC's Blueprint magazine, he wrote, "I think they're wrong on all counts. The assertion that Nader's marginal vote hurt Gore is not borne out by polling data. When exit pollers asked voters how they would have voted in a two-way race, Bush actually won by a point. That was better than he did with Nader in the race."
In an online article published by Salon.com on Tuesday, November 28, 2000, progressive activist Jim Hightower mentioned that in Florida, a state Gore lost by only 537 votes, 24,000 Democrats voted for Nader, while another 308,000 Democrats voted for Bush. According to Hightower, 191,000 self-described Liberals in Florida voted for Bush, while fewer than 34,000 voted for Nader. Wrote Hightower:
Even when Gore went skittering across the country in August on a widely ballyhooed "Working Families Tour," he had the Clinton administration's favorite Wall Streeter, Robert Rubin, by his side, sending a stage wink to the corporate powers, assuring them that all his [Gore's] quasi-populist posturing was only rhetoric – not to worry, Rubin still has a grip on policy.
In their 2007 book The Nightly News Nightmare: Network Television's Coverage of US Presidential Elections, 1988–2004, professors Stephen J. Farnsworth and S. Robert Lichter alleged most media outlets influenced the outcome of the election through the use of horse race journalism. Some liberal supporters of Al Gore argued that the media had a bias against Gore and in favor of Bush. Peter Hart and Jim Naureckas, two commentators for Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), called the media "serial exaggerators" and alleged that several media outlets were constantly exaggerating criticism of Gore: they alleged that the media falsely claimed Gore lied when he claimed he spoke in an overcrowded science class in Sarasota, Florida, and also alleged the media gave Bush a pass on certain issues, such as Bush allegedly exaggerating how much money he signed into the annual Texas state budget to help the uninsured during his second debate with Gore in October 2000. In the April 2000 issue of Washington Monthly, columnist Robert Parry also alleged that media outlets exaggerated Gore's supposed claim that he "discovered" the Love Canal neighborhood in Niagara Falls, New York during a campaign speech in Concord, New Hampshire on November 30, 1999, when he had only claimed he "found" it after it was already evacuated in 1978 because of chemical contamination. Rolling Stone columnist Eric Boehlert also alleged media outlets exaggerated criticism of Gore as early as July 22, 1999, when Gore, known for being an environmentalist, had a friend release 500 million gallons of water into a drought stricken river to help keep his boat afloat for a photo shoot; Boehlert claimed that media outlets exaggerated the actual number of gallons that were released, as they claimed it was 4 billion.
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