The Election of 2000

It's been nearly 16 years since Bush v. Gore. I've been extremely interested in presidential politics since I was 10 and watched the 1992 presidential debates between George Bush, Bill Clinton, and Ross Perot. 2000 was the first election that I was able to vote in, and the ensuing 35 days were beyond exciting to keep up with. Let's look back …
  1. First: A word about the US Presidential election process, for those who don't know how it works. We don't vote for the president directly, we vote for electors.
    Each state is given a certain number of electoral votes, equal to the amount of representatives in both houses of congress, plus 3. Thus, more populous states get more votes. Each state has their own vote and whomever gets the most votes gets all of the electors in that state, except in Maine and Nebraska, which allocate 1 per congressional district, with the winner getting 2. DC gets the same amount as lowest state - 3. The total number is 538, of which, 270 is needed to be elected president.
  2. The 2000 election was expected to be one of the closest in recent history
    Polling numbers showed that Americans were split between the two major candidates. Ralph Nader, the Green Party candidate made some headway, especially with younger voters, but was not expected to take any electoral votes.
  3. As Election Day arrived, all the major news outlets had their own exit polling and data, and would be using that information to make projections for each state throughout the night.
    This is something that has been done since 1952, in order to be able to bring results to the viewers before the ballots were fully counted. Sometimes, within seconds of polling places officially closing.
  4. This year, it appeared that Florida would be the most important battleground state.
    Every election has battleground states, also known as swing states. These are states that, for the most part, must be won in order to win the election. Doing the math, most experts agreed that Florida's 25 electoral votes would make the difference in this close race.
  5. As the night began, the networks already had some calls to make. At 6pm, Indiana and Kentucky were called for Bush. Bush is up 20-0.
    Parts of those two states actually were in central time zone, which means they closed at 7pm eastern time. But the call was already made. This is one of the problems with calling races early. Those who haven't voted yet have little incentive.
  6. The 7pm hour leads to a few more calls and a few characterizations. Vermont goes to Al Gore and South Carolina goes to George Bush. Four states are too close to call, including the big prize, Florida. Bush leads Gore 28-3, with 55 too close to call.
    Virginia, Georgia, and New Hampshire are also too close to call. Again, parts of the Florida panhandle are still open for another hour. Things are about to change.
  7. The bottom of the hour brings three more states as too close to call: North Carolina, Ohio, and West Virginia closed at 7:30. A few minutes before that, Virginia was moved to the Bush column. At 7:32, Georgia moved to Bush as well. 54-3 Bush.
    Things appeared to be going in Bush's favor, but it was pretty much a lock that Gore was going to have California and New York, which is 87 votes between the two.
  8. At 7:48, the networks announced that Al Gore had taken the state of Florida.
    It was only 12 more minutes until the rest of the state closed, and using exit polling data and historical trends, they felt confident that the big prize was going to Gore.
  9. At 7:58, before the next cycle of poll closings, North Carolina's 14 electoral votes were awarded to Bush. This means, as the hour ended, we were at Bush 68, Gore 28, with 30 votes too close to call.
    Amazingly, the two states that Gore won made the mood in Nashville pretty upbeat. In Austin, the president, with his family by his side, were also positive. In fact, they didn't agree with the news organizations calling Florida so soon. Bush's brother, Jeb, was the Governor of the state, and he had assured his brother Florida was in the bag.
  10. A new round of poll closings at the 8:00 hour shifted the numbers considerably. Connecticut, Delaware, D.C., Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, and New Jersey all went to Gore, 91 votes in all. Kansas, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Texas went to Bush. 5 states were added to the too close to call lost. It was now 121-119 Bush, 88 too close.
    Alabama, Maine, Missouri, Tennessee, and Pennsylvania, another battleground state are too close to call. The numbers are obviously looking better for Gore, with Florida in place, his path to the White House was pretty clear.
  11. The bottom of the hour brought Alabama into the Bush column at 8:25, Arkansas closed at 8:30 and went into the too close to call list, and 3 out of 4 electors from Maine went to Gore. 130-122 Bush.
    The 9:00 hour was quickly approaching, and the numbers were still up in the air. Both sides were still extremely optimistic.
  12. At 8:49, the networks call Pennsylvania for Al Gore. These were 23 electoral votes that swung the momentum and appeared to swing the election to Gore. Bush 130, Gore 145, 59 too close to call.
    At this point, the networks started to shift focus towards a Gore win. It seemed, with California and New York still to come, there was little to no chance of Bush winning.
  13. The 9:00 poll closings are next. Bush wins 5 states: Louisiana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming. Gore won 2: New York and Rhode Island. Despite winning more states, Bush gains only 23 electoral votes to 37 by Gore. 5 are put in the too close to call column. Bush 153, Gore 182, too close to call at 101.
    With California still a few hours away, you can see why Gore was feeling good. This may be the last time Gore felt good during this evening.
  14. At 9:17, Tennessee and Ohio fall to Bush. Al Gore's home state of Tennessee is a disappointing loss. Minnesota goes to Gore about 20 minutes later. Bush 185, Gore 192
    He shouldn't have lost his home state. It should never happen. Although, this year, I feel like it will happen again for one of our candidates.
  15. At 9:30, Bush's chief strategist Karl Rove starts going on the airwaves talking about the numbers he's seeing in Florida. He states that what he's seeing and hearing had him believing that Bush, not Gore, will win Florida, despite the projections.
    Rove is extremely good with numbers and statistics, which leads to some discussions on some election coverage about the possibility that they projected incorrectly. It seems unlikely to most, as they haven't made a major call incorrectly before.
  16. At 9:54, things change. As Tom Brokaw put it, "What the networks giveth, the networks taketh away." Florida is pulled back from the Gore column and made too close to call again. Bush now leads again, 185-167.
    This was uncharted territory. Bush's camp was convinced their numbers were right. The networks started to look deeper and see that it wasn't a lock for Gore.
  17. The 10:00 poll closings come in. Idaho, Montana, and Utah went to Bush. Iowa, Nevada, and Oregon too close to call. Bush was now up 197-167 with 95 too close to all.
    All eyes stayed on Florida, even though Bush was gaining the lead. People started talking about recounts and butterfly ballots.
  18. In the next 21 minutes, four more states were called. New Hampshire, Missouri, and West Virginia went to Bush, adding 20 to his total. Gore got New Mexico's 5 votes. This made the totals 217-172 in Bush's favor with 70 not yet called.
    At this point everyone was talking about nothing but Florida. There were reports of voter suppression in minority areas, large numbers of elderly people in west palm beach county, a largely Jewish demographic, worried that they voted for Pat Buchanan, a hardline conservative who had expressed antisemitic sentiments in the press.
  19. A few minutes later, at 10:30, Karl Rove goes back on the networks stating that his internal numbers are showing that Bush is doing better than earlier polling had shown and should have no problem winning Florida
    People started to discuss Secretary of State Katherine Harris, who also happened to be heading Bush's Florida operation. Little was known about her before this point, but we would learn plenty, very soon
  20. The 11pm closings gave California and Hawaii to Gore, as expected. Oregon and Washington would be listed as too close to call at this time. Bush 217, Gore 230, 88 undecided as of yet
    Only Alaska still had their polls open. It was looking clear that, even with the lead, Gore would need Florida to win the election. Bush had a tough path without Florida, as well.
  21. Between 11:10 and 11:45, four states went to Bush: Colorado, Nevada, Arkansas, and Arizona. When the final polls closed at midnight, Alaska was also called for bush. These five states gave him 29 more electoral votes. At 12:09, Gore won Washington state, giving him 11. Not much happened for a few hours when Iowa went Gore at 2:04am. 246-248 Gore.
    These hours after midnight were full of confusion and changing numbers. Bush's lead started to grow in Florida, but the questions about voter confusion in a few counties led the media to wonder what was going on in that state.
  22. At 2:17 in the morning, Florida was finally called again, this time for Bush. This put Bush at 271, which is one more than needed to secure the majority. Therefore, George W. Bush would be the 43rd president of the United States.
    Though 97% of the votes were counted in Florida, Bush led by a small margin, only thirty thousand votes and this point. But the networks had reliable data, and they were finally ready to end the night.
  23. At 2:30 AM, Al Gore called George W Bush to concede. He graciously congratulated the president-elect on his victory.
    This wasn't made public for about another hour. Which, as we'll see, makes the turn of events even stranger.
  24. At 3 AM, Gore's motorcade left his hotel and headed to the War Memorial in Nashville.
    Gore's supporters had been there much longer than expected, watching all the coverage. They were waiting, no doubt disappointedly, for his concession speech.
  25. At the same time, the numbers in Florida started to look much less certain. As some of the larger counties numbers kept coming in, the difference between the two went down to about 11,000
    Outdated machinery, usually in lower income areas, took longer to report. These areas tended to lean democrat.
  26. At 3:15 AM, Gore's advisors frantically tried to reach him to tell him about the numbers.
    He was not yet at he War Memorial, and had to decide what to do next, seeing that his deficit was quickly shrinking.
  27. Around 3:25, as the networks were waiting on a shot of Nashville, they started reporting that Gore had already called Bush to concede and would be coming to speak momentarily
    Why this info came out so late is strange. Especially since things were so close to changing. Again.
  28. The numbers were going even lower. People started keeping up with the Secretary of State's website, which had even more updated numbers than what the networks were getting. These were showing that Bush's lead had gone down below 1,000 statewide
    It seemed to be at this time that Gore decided that he wasn't going to give up just yet. The winner of Florida would win the election. There was no reason for him to rush a concession before being certain.
  29. At 3:30 AM, Gore called bush back and recanted his concession. The call was not well received by Bush. Gore then went back to his hotel without making any speech to supporters or the press.
    According to the guardian, Bush said "Let me make sure I understand you, Mr. Vice-President, you're calling me to retract your confession?" Gore famously responded, "There's no need to get snippy about it." After being told by Bush that Jeb said he was going to win Florida, Gore stated "It may surprise you but your brother is not the ultimate authority on this." Bush tersely replied, "Mr. Vice-President, you need to do what you have to do"
  30. Finally, at 3:55 AM, the networks once again changed their projection, taking Florida from Bush and putting it back into the too close to call column. This also, obviously, retracted the call that Bush had won the election. After Wisconsin and Oregon are called for Gore, the rally stands at 246-267 in favor of Bush. Only Florida's 25 votes remain
    And this is where we stood the morning after the election. There count was so close that it triggered an automatic machine recount of all ballots in the state. But this was only the beginning …
  31. It is worth noting that in the end, Gore won the popular vote by over half a million votes nationwide, edging bush 48.4% - 47.9. This has no effect on the outcome of the election, of course.
    The last time the electoral vote was won by the loser of the popular vote was in 1888, when Benjamin Harrison won the election, but Grover Cleveland won the popular vote. It also happened in 1876 and, perhaps most famously, 1824, when Andrew Jackson won the most electoral votes and the popular vote and still didn't become president.
  32. To be continued …
    Part 2 will follow the day after the election through December 12.
  33. These sites, along with my memory, helped me trace this night.