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. . It's not over yet: Fate of election rests with Florida

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By Christine Eklof
Staff Writer
Friday, November 10, 2000

On Tuesday, Nov. 7, the College Republicans headed up to downtown St. Paul while the College Democrats headed to the Northfield Grand for their respective "victory parties." The College Republicans planned to celebrate the election of Gov. George W. Bush, while the College Democrats expected to cheer Vice President Al Gore into the White House.

Yet while both parties could celebrate the election of various local candidates, neither party could claim presidential victory.

One day after polling stations across the nation shut their doors, Bush and Gore remained in a statistical dead heat. As of Wednesday, the Governor had won 29 states and 48,783,510 votes, while the Vice President had won only 20 states but 48,976,148 votes. Bush held 246 of the 270 electoral votes needed to become President, while Gore held 260. These numbers place the 2000 election even closer in electoral college votes than the 1960 election between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon, which Kennedy won 303-219.

Yet these numbers do not include the controversial state of Florida, which will be the deciding factor in this election with its coveted 25 electoral votes. Shortly before 8 p.m. EST Tuesday night, the networks used exit polls to project that Gore would carry the state of Florida. Yet shortly after 2 a.m. EST, Florida was declared Bush country. At 3 am EST, Florida was retracted from Bush and once again fell into the "too close to call" column.

Early Wednesday morning, Gore telephoned Bush to concede, believing that Bush led by some 50,000 votes in Florida. Gore left his hotel in Nashville, Tenn., and began the short motorcade drive to the War Memorial Plaza, where he planned to address his supporters there. Yet two blocks away from the Plaza, Gorešs traveling chief of staff, Michael Feldman, was notified by field director Michael Whouley that only 6,000 votes separated the candidates in Florida. Upon hearing this, Gore called Bush again to retract his earlier words of concession. Bush was not surprisingly displeased to take Gorešs second call. Florida Governor Jeb Bush had reportedly assured that Florida was a done deal.

With 99.9% of the ballots counted early by Wednesday morning, Bush carried Florida with as few as 565 and as many as 2,000 votes. Because the margins are so slim, Florida state law requires that the votes be recounted.

"We thought it would be close. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine it would be this close," said Jeb Bush.

Controversy shrouds Floridašs figures because many voters supposedly found the ballots difficult to read. Many of these voters may have voted for Pat Buchanan in attempt to vote for Gore. This would steal votes from Gore, benefiting Bush.

Nineteen Florida counties reported the first recount results late Wednesday afternoon, accounting for 2,909,465 votes for Bush‹a gain of 205 votes over previously estimated levels‹and 2,907,722 for Gore, gaining him 238 votes. The recount must be completed by the end of the business day Thursday.

However, once the recount has been completed, it must be certified. This process could take up to seven days. Should the overseas ballots need to be factored in, the certification process could last 10 days.

"The American people have spoken," President Bill Clinton said Wednesday. "It's too bad it's going to take a little while to determine what it was they had to say." "We now need to resolve this election in a way that is fair and forthright, and in a way that is fully consistent with the Constitution and our laws," Gore said. "Because of what is at stake, this matter must be resolved expeditiously, but deliberately and without any rush to judgment."

Bush also stressed the importance of Florida's recount. "We have to make sure the outcome is finalized as quickly as possible," he said, adding that the situation reflects on the "strength of our democracy."

Amidst the controversy, Bush remained confident that he would carry the state of Florida. "This morning [Wednesday] brings news from Florida that the final count there shows that Secretary Cheney and I have carried the state of Florida," he told reporters Wednesday afternoon in Austin, Texas. "And if that result is confirmed by an automatic recount as we expect it to be, then we have won the election."

Although both parties remain optimistic about the outcome of the election, a final and official decision could still be days away.

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