The 2000 Elections
As President Clinton began reflecting on his eight years in office, his wife Hillary Rodham Clinton declared her candidacy for a seat in the U.S. Senate representing the state of New York. Some called her a long shot and a carpetbagger, since she'd established residency with the sole purpose of entering the Senate race. But on November 7, 2000, she prevailed.
The outcome of the presidential contest was less certain. Democratic vice president Al Gore ran against the Republican governor George W. Bush of Texas, son of the former president. Even before the election, with polls so close that analysts couldn't make accurate predictions, some were remembering earlier presidential elections such as the 1888 race between Grover Cleveland, who won the popular vote, and Benjamin Harrison, who prevailed in the Electoral College. In order to win the presidency, a candidate must garner at least 270 electoral votes.
No analyst or pundit could have predicted the odd outcome on election night. Television networks were far too quick to call the race. Early in the evening, it appeared Vice President Gore was leading in electoral votes, but this margin later slipped. In the wee hours of the morning, the television networks called George W. Bush the winner, and Gore even telephoned him to concede the race. A short time later, Gore learned that the race was too close to call in the state of Florida. He telephoned Bush again and revoked his concession.
All eyes fell on Florida's twenty-five electoral votes, for they would decide the next president. Never before in American history was an election undecided for days and weeks after voters had gone to the polls. It appeared that Gore had more popular votes and Bush more electoral ones (he had 271 of the 270 required if he carried Florida).
However, the matter grew more complex in “the Sunshine State.” Everything from absentee ballots and ballot design in certain Florida counties to the way in which the ballots were punched and counted came under the microscope, with each side engaging attorneys to urge or fight a potential recount. Interestingly enough, Jeb Bush, brother of George W. Bush, was Florida's governor.
In the 2000 presidential election, there were 543,895 more popular votes for Senator Al Gore to than for Governor George Bush, but George Bush won the electoral vote by 5 electoral votes.
The Florida Supreme Court as well as the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in the matter, which headline after headline dubbed “the Florida recount.” There was much talk about the argument supporting amending the Constitution to do away with the Electoral College. But those in favor of keeping it claimed that this system of electing presidents had worked for more than 200 years, and that the Electoral College ensured that less populated states had a voice in an election's ultimate outcome. Without the Electoral College, candidates would concentrate on the states where the majority of citizens lived, and might forget about campaigning in and addressing the needs of the rest. Still, those who maintain that everyone's vote should count may yet bring forward the idea of amending the U.S. Constitution.
On December 12, 2000 — the deadline for Florida to certify its twentyfive electors — the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5 to 4 ruling, declared that the counting of the disputed votes had to be completed by midnight. This essentially handed the election to George W. Bush. Vice President Al Gore, in an address to the American people, graciously conceded the race while holding firm to his belief that every vote should have been counted. He also pledged his support to the incoming administration.