Explain this whole Bush election/non-election deal to an ignorant Swede

I was going to ask this question in this thread, but I felt like avoiding a hi-jack. Then I briefly considered posting it in General Questions, but it would be moved here in twenty posts or so anyway, so I might as well start here.

Now, I’m leftist, and I’m no fan of Bush’s. And, I’m not even American. However, I can’t see what basis Bush’s opponents (for example Revtim, Diogenes the Cynic and Evil Captor) have for saying he wasn’t elected.

Isn’t it in fact true that the elected president is whoever the electoral college elects?

Isn’t it in fact true that the electoral college is formally an independent body and fully able to vote John H. Doohickey into office if it chose to?

Anyone care to fight some of my ignorance?

They say he wasn’t elected because of the Supreme Court decision that halted the recounting in Florida. I think. Or it goes back to that whole popular vote thing, which is irrelevent, as you pointed out.

Here’s the McDonald’s Drive-Thru version-

For a variety of reasons, our electoral system is set up so that whoever wins the popular vote in each state wins ALL of that state’s electoral votes. The most electoral votes wins. It is possible to win the electoral vote but not the popular vote.

Bush basically won the electoral vote by a narrow margin,with a single county in Florida essentially deciding the whole thing. Problem is that in a nation of millions, it’s impossible to have a voting system with 0% error so what you essentially had was a tie.

Since Bush had slightly more votes, he was declared the winner but a case could be made either way.

That is certainly not the case nationwide, where Gore had something on the order of a half million more votes that Bush. As for Florida, sadly, we’ll never really know thanks to the Supreme Court’s decision to stop the statetwide recount. But Bush was ahead under the count favored by Katherine Harris, so that’s the one that stuck.

I’ll sum up our objections:

The electoral college system is as described. The 2000 election came down to a 50/50 split, for the most part. Most large states were clearly either for Bush or for Gore, but in Florida (which has a lot of electors because of its large population) the vote was very close, so close that a recount was in order, and since Florida had so many electoral votes, whoever won in Florida won the Presidency.

There were a lot of electoral shenanigans that made the vote close. A lot of mail-in military ballots that were clearly illegal were allowed in (the Florida Secretary of State was in charge, a Republican appointed by the Florida governor, who JUST HAPPENED TO BE George’s brother Jeb).

Even more obvious, a partisan corporate entity was hired to handle the process of purging the voter roles of ineligible voters – felons and the like. The company in question purged a LOT of votes, especially in Democratic counties, that were clearly eligible, in what was clearly an attempt to thin the number of Democratic voters. Succeeded, too, as thousands of eligible voters were struck from the rolls.

There were other issues like the Palm Beach butterfly ballots that clearly made a lot of voters mistakenly cast their votes for Pat Buchanan (who admitted that he had expected virtually no votes from Palm Beach) and the like.

The Dems wanted a recount, the Repubs opposed. There were various legal battles, and the issue was sent to the Florida Supreme Court, which was seen as Democratic-leaning. Before the Florida court issued a decision on a recount, the Supreme Court was hauled into the case (the rationale was that a timely decision was needed so that we’d have a Pres come Jan. 16, when he’s supposed to be sworn in).

By a 5-4 majority the Supreme Court decided a full recount wasn’t necessary in this instance, which meant that Bush was the winner. The decision was an extraordinary thing, in fact, the Supreme Court declared that their decision could NOT be used as a precedent for future decisions, something the court rarely does, and which court watchers are pretty much unanimous in saying means the Court recognizes that it is making a poor decision.

Several of the justices in the 5-4 majority were appointed by George Bush’s father during his presidency, and all were Repblican appointees. It was VERY much a partisan decision.

After the election, a media consortium did do a full recount of the state, and found that in a properly run election, Gore would have won by a few thousand votes.

That is why I and many Dems say that Bush was appointed not elected. There was just so much illegal and semi-legal and legal-but-it-stinks-to-high-heaven crap going around that the election is clearly tainted.

I hope that makes things clearer for you. I imagine some Repubs will chime in with their usual tainted logic and faulty facts.

anyone have a link to the washpost investigation results?

There actually are two states that allot electors by proportion, not winner take all. The winner gets the two “Senatorial votes” and the others are split according to the “Representative votes”. (Each state gets a number of electors equal to + the number of Representatives. Min number of electors is 3.)

The election was close, and the first vote count in FL showed Bush winning there. Gore contested and demanded a recount. That’s when it got complicated by several factors:

  1. Gore only wanted to recount in a few counties. Turns out those counties were majority Democrat.

  2. The paper ballots that were re-counted by hand were like the old style IBM punch cards. Sometimes the “chad” did not fully punch out and a whole hoo-ha errupted over whether or not to count the various types of “hanging chads”.

  3. FL law had a deadline by which time the Sec of State of FL (Harris) was req’d to certify the election. She’s a REpublican, so Gore contested the date, saying they needed more time to count votes. The law was pretty clear (it said “shall certify”, not “may certify”, for example). Gore took this to the FL Supreme court, saying the date was not a real req’t since it was a somewhat artificial deadline. The FL supreme court agreed to extend the deadline and allow a hand recount to continue.

  4. Bush contested this decision and sent it to the Supreme Court of the US. IIRC, by this time the original deadline had already be passed. The Supreme Court originally ruled that they would not interfere with the FL court’s decision, but later ruled that the recount itself was not valid since different counties had adopted different methods of doing the manual recount. That is, they had different criteria for what counted as a true vote.

  5. There were other complaints that were never really addressed in the lawsuit, but I won’t go into these here.

Meanwhile, the whole world laughed at us because we couldn’t seem to conduct an election properly.

Check out the site for the actual SCotUS decision.

Here’s the REAL bottom line:

Through an incredible fluke, the national election boiled down to a few hundred votes in Florida. This is well under what anyone would expect a reasonable margin of error to be. In other words, the election results were statistically a wash.

However, George Bush did have a few hundred more votes than Al Gore, making him technically the winner.

Since the law has no option for a ‘tie’, Al Gore went to court to change the results. He made a bad error right off the bat - rather than calling for a statewide recount, his team tried to stack the deck by requesting that only votes in heavily Democratic districts be counted. He also wanted to change the rules after the election by changing the standards by which votes are counted. Thus, we heard endless prattle about dimpled chads, hanging chads, etc.

As recounts happened, Bush hung on to a (narrowing) lead. Time dragged on. Eventually, the Supreme Court put a stop to the whole show. This threw Democrats into a tizzy, claiming that the election was ‘stolen’. Of course, if it had been THEIR guy who was ahead by a few hundred votes, they would be claiming that the election was fair, and Republicans would probably be yelling that it was stolen.

Later on, a couple of newspapers tried to do a major recount to see what the ‘real’ results were (which is probably also bogus, since if the result is still under the margin of error, all you’re going to do with another recount is come up with a different, equally meanginless result). Nonetheless, most recounts showed Bush as the winner anyway.

So… Bush led after the election, and after every legal recount. He also led after the more widespread, informal recounts. There were only a couple of scenarios using different standards for recounting votes under which Gore would have won. So Bush is certified the winner, and becomes president.

Complicating matters is that Gore actually won the most votes across the country, a fact which the Democrats keep harping on to this day. But the way the U.S. system works is that electoral college votes decide the winner, and they are decided mostly on a ‘winner take all’ basis, state by state. So, a candidate can lose one state by ten million votes, win the next one by five hundred votes, and if the second state is bigger than the first, he’ll actually be ahead in electoral college votes, even though he’s 9,500,000 votes behind his challenger.

Of course, before the election the conventional wisdom was that Gore would win the EC, and Bush would get the most popular votes. When that was the assumption, Democrats were happy with the Electoral College, and we all heard about how important it was an all that. When the results went the other way, suddenly the EC became a threat to liberty, and to this day we have to suffer through threads about eliminating it, alternatives to it, etc.

If elections were REALLY scientific, they’d be stated like this:

“The margin of error in our vote counting has been determined to be ±.5%. Any election which has a difference between candidates within this range will be declared null, and a new election will be held within X days.”

That is the ONLY way this could have been ‘fair’. But people want to believe a fiction that every vote counts, and that mistakes aren’t made. So we can’t state it like that. And since that wasn’t the law at the time, SOMEONE had to be made president. If Gore had found a combination of recounts that showed him to be 100 votes higher than Bush, would that have made it any more fair? I suppose in the eyes of the Democrats, because then their guy would have ‘won’.

Thanks all, I guess I’ve got it down (or as far down as it will go) now.

Now, to take this debate (well, quasi-debate, since everyone keeps being so factual and nice about the whole deal) in a whole 'nother direction: why bother with the electoral college at all? Why is it an independent body? What’s its purpose?

Wouldn’t it be better to just count all the votes and the guy who gets the most nationwide wins?

Even that is questionable. Thing is, the difference was so minute that any fiction of who won is indistinguishable from fact. We can all speculate, but we’ll never truly know.

There are only two immutable facts about that election:

  1. Both sides behaved shamefully.

  2. Some great band names came out of that debacle.

And the Justice who provided the swing vote was heard loudly complaining on Election Night - when she thought Gore was winning - that now she wouldn’t be able to retire for four more years.

The Supreme Court specifically ordered the recounting stopped while Bush was still ahead. It was estimated that Gore was going to take the lead in an hour or so.

No, Priceguy, that would make sense.

Yes, that would be better, and fairer. But so long as one party feels the system works to their advantage, it will remain in place.

Sorry. No. A Pub saying both sides behaved shamefully is like a Serb saying both sides committed atrocities in Bosnia. It’s true, in the sense that the Bosnians committed SOME atrocities, but the fact is that 90 percent of the evil stuff was done by the Serbs.

and in the 2000 election, 90 percent of the evil stuff was done by the Pubbies. Both sides behaved shamefully, but one side was a LOT more shameful than the other.

I’m quite disappointed in the posters who explained the event at length. Not one of you even bothered to try to be impartial, and all left out huge gaps, key facts, and critical information in the story and twisted and interpreted things to suit your political bias. It’s pathetic. If you can’t deliver a factual answer, don’t bother trying.

Priceguy, the original purpose of the electrol college was to prevent heavily populated states from dominating the vote. Bear in mind that when the system was designed, there were only 13 states, and the USa at the time was more what its name would suggest - a union of independent states - than what it is today, a single nation-state with 50 administrative divisions. Less populated states did not want their heavily populated brethren to dominate the issue. While the electoral college still gives heavily populated states more votes, the potential effect is less severe.

Under a popular vote system, it is theoretically possible today for the voters in 49 out of 50 states to favour Candidate A, for voters in the 50th state to favour Candidate B, and Candidate B get elected because he has a huge lead in State #50, while A wins States 1-49 by a slim margin. Of course if you just wanted a popular vote that wouldn’t matter, but if, like the framers of the Constitution, you think in terms of STATES, it does matter. The electoral college allowed for a balance between individual and state influence.

The real scandal of the 2000 election, rather than the partisan crap you’ve been subjected to in this thread, is the appallingly primitive balloting system the United States uses for all its elections. Other Western democracies have universal, efficient, and effective election procedures. The USA has a shambles, a mixture of 500 different systems that vary wildly from county to county and use an assortment of outdated and inaccurate technology. With a simple, nationwide system, you would do far better just using paper ballots. But instead of focusing on making sure they know who will win in 2004, people seem to prefer to argue over who won in 2000.

Well said RickJay

Maybe the U.N. need to send in a team to ensure free and fair elections :stuck_out_tongue:

I have to say I was amazed that the US had such a shambolic way of electing their leaders. I mean the cheap ass way of going about it not the procedure. Get a computerised system for feck sake. Even a little piss ant country like Ireland is now moving to such systems. It may cost a bit of money but nothing compared to other areas of the budget.

Priceguy for a fair and unbias report read the first chapter of “Stupid White Men” Joking BTW but read it anyway :wink:

Would it make sense to abolish the electoral college? I think so, even though that would have made Al Gore the President in 2000. I think the electoral college system is outdated.

But whether I like it or not, the system isn’t going to change any time soon. Abolishing the elctoral college would require a Constiutional amendment, which would require the approval of 38 state legislatures. If just 13 states refused to approve that change, it wouldn’t happen. And there are far more than 13 states with small populations. Those small states feel (rightly or wrongly) that the electoral college system gives them power and protection from being dominated by larger states, and they’ll never agree to a change.

So, sadly, the point is moot for the foreseeable future.

Care to point out where I was partial?

I’d like to see the bias in my post. The key events were the 3 court rulings (one FL Sup Ct, the 2 others US Sup Ct). There was a lot of blather on both sides about how to do a recount, but it was the court rulings that determined the outcome.

That’s your opinion. Many of us still see the country as a voluntary assmeblage of states and are lothe to turn over more and more authority to the feds.

Priceguy: Think about the EU. Do countries get a vote equal to their population? No. The US is more tightly bound politically than the EU, so that’s not a perfect analogy. But it differs in degree, rather than in substance. I like to think of it this way: the President is the president of the “States”, not so much president of the people. The people’s encounter with the gov’t should be primarily with their state gov’t. not with the feds. This will change in times of war (when it’s crucial for the country to pull together as a whole), but in normal peacetime, the feds should be a minor interruption in the lives of the common man.

  • The Supreme Court specifically ordered the recounting stopped while Bush was still ahead. It was estimated that Gore was going to take the lead in an hour or so.*

Unless whoever said suddenly developed psychic powers I don’t see how anyone could say this with any validity or justification.

All of you, repeat, ALL, need to borrow, buy, steal or otherwise obtain a copy of the indie film called “Unprecedented”. See www.unprecedented.org The shocking truths of what actually happened in Florida will exceed your wildest conspiracy theories. Democracy was hijacked and civil rights set back fifty years. The only reason the truth came out is because of the close vote there. I’m sure ShrubCo and his flying monkeys are still sweating bullets on that one, since they were so sure of a landslide from Jeb. It took documentary filmmakers from outside the Republican-owned media to actually do some old-fashioned investigative journalism to get to the bottom. The 2000 elections were a national disgrace.