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’.