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U.S. presidential election, 2000

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Presidential CandidateElectoral Vote Popular Vote Pct Party Running Mate
(Electoral Votes)
George W. Bush (W) 271 50,456,002 47.87 Republican Richard Cheney (271)
Al Gore 266 50,999,897 48.38 Democrat Joseph Lieberman (266)
Ralph Nader 0 2,882,955 2.74 Green Winona LaDuke (0)
Patrick J. Buchanan 0 448,895 0.42 Reform Ezola Foster[?] (0)
Harry Browne 0 384,431 0.36 Libertarian Art Olivier (0)
Howard Phillips[?] 0 98,020 0.09 Constitution J. Curtis Frazier[?] (0)
John Hagelin 0 83,714 0.08 Natural Law/Reform Nat Goldhaber[?] (0)
Other elections: 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008, 2012
Sources: U.S. Office of the Federal Register (electoral vote) (http://www.archives.gov/federal_register/electoral_college/scores2#2000), Federal Election Commission (popular vote) (http://www.fec.gov/pubrec/fe2000/prespop.htm)

(Larger version)

The 2000 Presidential election was one of the closest elections in the history of the United States. The election was extraordinarily close, and the results of the November 7 election were not known immediately because Florida's disputed votes swung the election. The counting and recounting of Florida presidential ballots extended for more than a month following the election, and the final (and disputed) official Florida count gave the victory to Bush by 537 votes.

During the recounting process, the Bush campaign hired George H. W. Bush's former Secretary of State James Baker to oversee the legal process, and the Gore campaign hired Bill Clinton's former Secretary of State Warren Christopher[?]. Numerous local court rulings went both ways, some ordering recounts because the vote was so close and others declaring that a selective manual recount in a few heavily-Democratic counties would be unfair. Eventually, the Gore campaign appealed to the Florida Supreme Court whose liberal judges ordered that the recounting process proceed. The Bush campaign subsequently appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States which took up the case Bush v. Gore on December 1. On December 4, the court nullified the decision of the Florida Supreme Court saying that the court's decision to bypass state election laws, which stated that results had to be certified by a certain date, was dubious at best saying that there was "considerable uncertainty" as to the precise grounds for their ruling.

Early in the afternoon of December 12, the Republican-dominated Florida House of Representatives voted nearly on party lines to certify the state's electors for Bush. Later that afternoon, the Florida Supreme Court upheld lower court rulings authorizing recounts in several south Florida counties.

All the lower court rulings became moot when around 10pm on December 12, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a 5-4 ideologically-split decision in favor of Bush, effectively ending the election. The court cited differing vote-counting standards from county to county and the lack of a single judicial officer to oversee the recount, both of which violated the equal-protection clause of the United States Constitution.

At 9pm on December 13, in a nationally televised address, Gore conceded that he lost his bid for the presidency. He asks his supporters to support Bush, saying, "This is America, and we put country before party." During his speech, Gore's family and Joe and Hadassah Lieberman stood quietly nearby.

Texas Governor George W. Bush became President-elect and began forming his transition committee. Bush tried to reach across party lines and bridge a divided America, stating that "the president of the United States is the president of every single American, of every race and every background." Bush took the oath of office on January 20, 2001.

Vice President Al Gore came in second even though he received a larger number of popular votes. This was at least the fourth time that a candidate who did not receive a plurality of the popular vote received a majority of the electoral committee vote, the first time probably being in the 1824 elections although popular vote records do not exist for earlier elections. Until this election, the 1876 elections had been the most contentious in U.S. history.

Table of contents


See: US presidential primaries of 2000


In the campaign, Bush criticized the Clinton administration policy in Somalia, where 18 Americans died in 1993 trying to sort out warring factions, and in the Balkans, where U.S. 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. Obviously, this was said in the context of a pre-September 11 United States.

Minor Party Candidates There were five other candidates on the majority of the 51 ballots (50 states plus the District of Columbia): Harry Browne (Libertarian, 50), Pat Buchanan (Reform, 49), Ralph Nader (Green, 44), Howard Phillips[?] (Constitution, 41), and John Hagelin (Natural Law, 38).

Nader's candidacy was the most successful, drawing 2.74% of the popular vote. His campaign was marked by a travelling tour of "super-rallies"; large rallies held in sports arenas like Madison Square Garden, MC-ed by film-maker Michael Moore. After initially ignoring Nader, the Gore campaign made a big publicity pitch to (potential) Nader supporters in the final weeks of the campaign, downplaying Gore's differences with Nader on the issues and claiming that Gore's ideas were more similar to Nader's than Bush's were, noting that Gore had a better chance of winning than Nader. In the aftermath of the campaign, many Gore supporters blamed Nader for drawing enough would-be Gore votes to push Bush over Gore, labeling Nader a "spoiler" candidate.

Buchanan's primary battle was especially vicious. In the 1996 election, the Reform party had nominated Ross Perot for president, and Buchanan had run for (and lost) the nomination of the Republican Party. Some Reform Party supporters therefore felt that Buchanan was hijacking their party, and tried to nominate Hagelin. The convention ended with the Hagelin supporters walking out and conducting their own parallel convention. Which group was the true Reform Party (and thus entitled to public financing due to their strong showing in the previous election) was decided by lawsuit.

The 2000 Presidential Election

The Electoral College vote was so close that the change in the results of any state would have swung the election (271 Electoral College votes for Bush 266 for Gore). Although Gore got 500,000 more popular votes than Bush, in America only the Electoral College chooses the President, so Bush was declared the winner.

Some have pointed out that if our system were based on the popular vote, rather than the electoral college, then the turnout of voters would have been different. Voter turnout in states that favor one party heavily tends to be lower. Because of this, the popular vote cannot be used to predict who would have won an actual popular vote election.

In Florida, the vote was so close that state law provided for an automatic recount, and there were concerns about the fairness of the voting process there. The Democratic Party lodged a dispute over the state's election results; a decision by the Supreme Court of the United States ultimately certified Florida's election results, resulting in Bush's victory.

Florida election results The national television networks called Florida for Gore, then Bush, then announcing it too close to call.

Controversy in Florida

  • There were a number of overseas ballots missing postmarks or filled out in such a way that they were invalid under Florida law. A poll worker filled out the missing information on some hundred of these ballots. The Democrats moved to have all overseas ballots thrown out because of this. These disputes added to the mass of litigation between parties to influence the counting of ballots. The largest group of disputed overseas ballots were military ballots, which the Republicans argued to have accepted.

  • Some 179,855 ballots were not counted in the offical tally. These were ballots which were mistakenly filled out, however, in some counties the voting machines[?] (Accuvotes[?]) would return the ballot and allow voters to try again, whilst in other counties the reject mechanisms were not enabled, thus giving voters only one chance to correctly mark the ballot. As a general trend, reject mechanisms were disabled in disproportionately African-American and Hispanic counties.

  • In Florida, where Presidential Candidate Bush's brother Jeb Bush was governor, 57,700 voters were incorrectly listed as felons on a "scrub list" and thus their votes were not counted. (In some cases, the alleged felonies were dated several years after the election and the vast majority of the listed were not felons.) These persons were disproportionately Democrats of African-American and Hispanic descent. Furthermore, an additional 8,000 non-felons had been supplied by the state of Texas, via Database Technologies, and these people were added to the list in May 2000; these 8,000 were later removed from the list following a story by the Palm Beach Post[?]. 714 Illinoians and 990 Ohians were added in the same fashion and not removed.

  • Several months after the election, the Palm Beach Post[?] announced that thousands of felons had voten in favour of Gore. Those who disagree with the newspaper, argue that the Post used an invalid list provided by the ChoicePoint corporation and that nobody has been arrested for illegally voting.

  • The television news media called the state for Al Gore around 9:00pm EST, while voters in the western panhandle (which is in the Central Time Zone) of the state were still voting, potentially depressing the voter turnout. This region of the state is mostly Republican.

  • Due to the narrow margin of the original vote count, Florida law mandated a statewide recount. In addition, the Gore campaign requested that the votes in 3 counties be recounted by hand, which is within their rights under Florida election law. The Bush campaign then sued in federal court to stop the hand recounts. This case eventually reached the United States Supreme Court, which ruled 5-4 to stop the vote count, effectively declaring Bush the winner. The US supreme court also found that the additional recounts requested by Gore to be unconstitutional, in a 7-2 vote. Ultimately, Gore conceded the election and asked that his supporters also acknowledge Bush as the new president.

See also: ChoicePoint and Greg Palast

More On Ballots

"The result of the 2000 U.S. Presidential race was so close that some Democratic Party officials argue that one Florida county's hard-to-use ballot may have unfairly decided the presidency. Critics argue that some voters in Palm Beach County, Fla. might have accidentally voted for Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan, when they thought they were voting for Al Gore. The Democrats are listed second in the left column; but punching a hole in the second circle actually cast a vote for Buchanan."[1] (http://www.uwec.edu/jerzdg/orr/handouts/TW/proj/use-ballot.htm). In response, others point out that the ballot was designed by a Democrat, Theresa Lapore[?] who was not a political individual but to be elected to here job in her county it was essential to be a Democrat. The ballot was also approved by a representative of both major parties. Fox news reported on an informal study where 74 eight year-olds were asked to vote for their favorite Disney characters, using an similar ballot. All the children were successful[2] (http://www.stcsig.org/usability/topics/ballot/butterfly-ballot-a-cinch.pdf). But this study proves very little as the ballots used by the children were far simpler than those in the election as they were made of only one page and did not list anything comparable to Vice Presidential candidates.

In 2003, US citizens living in the state of Florida were asked who they voted for in the 2000 Election as part of the Statistical Abstract Census. The results showed President Bush receiving more than 1000 votes more than former Vice President Gore.

  • Some 179,855 ballots were not counted. These were ballots which were mistakenly filled out, however, in some counties the voting machines[?] (Accuvotes[?]) would return the ballot and allow voters to try again, whilst in other counties the reject mechanisms were not enabled, thus giving voters only one chance to correctly mark the ballot. As a general trend, reject mechanisms were not enabled within disproportionately African-American and Hispanic counties.

Greg Palast provides the following chart in his book The Best Democracy Money Can Buy:

Counties with 25%+ African-American Residents

Counties with 95%+ Caucasian Residents

Major Campaign Sponsors

Republican Party

Democratic Party

Overseas votes

Military and non-military.

U.S. Supreme Court

Media post-electoral studies

U.S. presidential election, 2000 (detail)

Detailed chart of election results nationwide

Notes on results

*Write-in Votes.

** 138,216 Miscellaneous write-in, blank and void votes were compiled as one total. This figure is not included in Total Votes Cast.

#Write-in votes for Presidential candidates not permitted.

##The District of Columbia has 3 electoral votes. There was 1 abstention.

Total Electoral Vote = 538

Total Electoral Vote Needed to Elect = 270



See also: President of the United States, U.S. presidential election, 2000, U.S. presidential election, 1876


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