Presidential race hinges on results of Florida recount

Peter Johnson

In a race whose results promise to be both historic and controversial, the country and the presidency are left in limbo, contingent on the election results from Florida.
While the country awaits the results of the all-important Florida contest, there are other issues the 2000 election will raise.
While the race was the closest in at least 40 years, the results raised concerns over the way the media cover elections, the nature of the Electoral College versus the popular vote, and the sanctity of the voting process.
The controversy finds its source in Florida, where by final count the election was decided for Texas Gov. George W. Bush by about 1,700 votes. Due to the extremely close margin, Florida law dictates an automatic recount — a process underway.
Florida is the key to the election, due to the close proximity of both candidates to the 270 electoral votes needed to clinch victory. Vice President Al Gore has 260 votes, while Bush has 246 — making Florida’s 25 electoral votes critical to both candidates.
While the state pledges to have the recount complete by noon Thursday, this doesn’t guarantee a final result. Either Gore or Bush may further contest the results, challenging votes on a precinct level.
While nothing is guaranteed, early media reports on confusing ballots in Palm Beach County and a lost ballot box in Miami-Dade County have raised suspicions about the validity of the contest, possibly fueling partisan protests after the recount.
CNN reported Wednesday that the box in question didn’t contain ballots but rather supplies left behind from the elections. Yet if the recount remains close, it may do little to quiet concern over the results.
Additionally, Florida’s hole-punch balloting system allegedly confused some Democratic voters, who claimed they actually voted for Pat Buchanan while thinking they voted for Gore.
Other issues will shape the final verdict in the 2000 election, and the real possibility of one candidate winning the popular vote and the other taking the Electoral College majority looms over the race.
While the final victor remains undetermined, Gore clinched the popular vote on the national level with a margin of roughly 170,000 votes. If Bush wins Florida — bringing his total to 271 electoral votes — it will raise an issue unseen since the last century. The battle also promises to be close in the Electoral College — the closest since 1916 when Woodrow Wilson narrowly defeated Charles Hughes by 23 electoral votes.
While the final result is up in the air, both camps remain optimistic about the results.
“This morning brings news from Florida that the final vote count shows that Secretary (Dick) Cheney and I have carried the state of Florida,” Bush said. “And if that result is confirmed by an automatic recount, as we expect it to be, then we have won the election.”
Bush also stressed the need for a quick resolution and reports from aides say he remains confident about his victory.
Gore said, “We now need to resolve this election in a way that is fair and forthright and is consistent with our Constitution.”
“Without being certain of the results in Florida, we simply cannot be certain of the results of this national election,” said Gore’s campaign manager William Daley. “Gore and (running mate Joseph) Lieberman are fully prepared to concede and to support Gov. Bush if and when he is officially elected president, but this race is simply too close to call.”

Peter Johnson welcomes comments at [email protected]