2000. In cities and towns across America, before
heading off to work, during lunch break, or after
another day at the office, people went to the polls to
cast their votes for the next president of the United
States. (All told more than 105 million people
voted for president, but some voted during early
voting periods or by absentee ballot). About as
many eligible voters did not vote, citing
reasons such as being too busy or unable to get time
off, lack of interest, the sentiment that "my vote
doesn't make a difference," inadequate knowledge of
the candidates or dislike of the candidates. As
subsequent events showed, however, in this election
each and every vote was critical.
Voter News Service
viewer sees on election night, and in the newspaper
the next morning, is the culmination of months of
preparation and planning. A key entity in bringing the
results to the nation is Voter News Service, a
cooperative formed by ABC News, the Associated Press,
CBS News, Cable News Network, Fox News and NBC News.
VNS performs two distinct functions. First, it does
Election Day exit polling, surveying voters in
randomly selected precincts as they leave polling
places. On November 5, 1996 VNS's national exit poll
surveyed 14,651 voters in 300 randomly selected
precincts. VNS also does individual state exit polls.
Exit polls provide a window on the concerns of voters
and useful information on variations in voting
behavior by gender, race, age, education, income and
other factors. VNS's second function is to collect,
tabulate and distribute unofficial election night
vote results for presidential, Senate, House and
gubernatorial races. VNS works with election officials
in every county in the country to gather these
results. On election night, stringers and reporters in
tens of thousands of precincts around the country call
in reports to VNS, which then processes and transmits
organizations, election night is as good as it gets, a
chance to show what they can do. Anchors man
elaborate sets, correspondents around the country file
reports, and, as the evening progresses, states are
called one way or another and the map begins to fill
in with red and blue. The Long Night
Victory Gore Election
At some point
in the evening, the outcome has become apparent to
all, not just those with access to the exit
polls. The defeated candidate calls the victor
to concede and then delivers his or her concession
speech. The president-elect delivers his or her
victory speech to jubilant supporters.
The Morning After...What
Does It Mean?
after the election are peak season for pundits as they
assess, analyze, discuss and debate the meaning of the
results. Various interest groups offer their own
post-election assessments, often using the opportunity
to point to the impact their constituency had on the
outcome or to launch some barbs at their opponents.
Election Day: Take 2...The
As you will
recall from high school, the president is not selected
by direct popular vote, but by intermediaries known as
electors. The electoral system is outlined in the
Twelfth Amendment to the Constitution, adopted in 1804
(this significantly modified the original provisions
contained in Article II). Each state has a number of
electors equal to its number of congressmen and
Senators. The District of Columbia has three electors,
bringing the total to 538. Most states use a
winner-take-all rule; all the state's electors go to
the winner of the popular vote in the state.
generally party activists. Some months before the
election each party puts together a slate of electors,
chosen by congressional district with the exception of
the two at-large Senate slots. If the party's
presidential candidate wins the popular vote in the
state on Election Day, its electors meet in the state
capitol on the first Monday after the second Wednesday
in December 2000. If not they stay home.
for the mid-December ceremony at the state capitol,
electors sign the certificate of vote--actually they
sign several copies of the document so there are
back-ups. There are separate votes for president
and for vice president. Each state sends one
copy of the certificate of vote to the Office of the
President of the United States Senate. Finally,
on January 6th, in a special joint session of Congress
these envelopes are opened and tallied and the outcome
of the election is officially certified.
is a routine affair. Because of the
Florida controversy, some Democrats [Democrats.com]
still had not given up on January 6, 2001 even
though Vice President Gore had conceded.
Members of the Congressional Black Caucus
tried to get Congress to reject Florida's
electors, but they could not find a Senator to
support their effort [as required by 3
U.S.C. Sect. 15].
6, 2001--Vice President Al Gore presided over
the joint session of Congress that certified
George W. Bush as the winner of the 2000
Turnout in Recent Years1
Committee for the Study of the American
Electorate. 2000 figures from Census Bureau and
Age Population (VAP)
1. For the
five presidential elections from 1952-1968, turnout
hovered around 60%.
Election Night Coverage:
What Went Wrong
Subcommittee on Telecommunications, Trade & Consumer
Protection (Commerce), chaired by Rep. Billy Tauzin
(R-LA), held hearings on the effects of the networks'
election night projections on Feb. 14, 2001.
CNN commissioned an independent review panel which
produced a report [Joan
James Risser, and Ben Wattenberg. "Television's
Performance on Election Night 2000: A Report for CNN,"
Jan. 29, 2001] (PDF format), and it is instituting new
policies for election night coverage.
Institute Calls for Break Up of VNS (11/27/00)
More Useful Links
to Public Opinion and Electoral Behavior"
That the Electoral College Be Abolished
for True Democracy (seeks abolition of Electoral
1992 and 1996
Maps and Results
1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 Eric M.
Appleman/Democracy in Action.