Election 2000 – CBS Radio Weekend Edition – November 18, 2000 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
Election 2000 – November 7th seemed like another lifetime ago. The controversy raged – the legal challenges continued – America was learning a new word it was hoping never to use again: Chad.
Between 7:50 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. EST on November 7, just before the polls closed in the largely Republican Florida panhandle, which was in the Central time zone, all major television news networks (CNN, NBC, FOX, CBS, and ABC) declared that Gore had won Florida. They based this prediction substantially on exit polls. But in the vote, Bush began to take a wide lead early in Florida, and by 10 p.m. EST, the networks had retracted their predictions and placed Florida back in the “undecided” column. At approximately 2:30 a.m. on November 8, with 85% of the vote counted in Florida and Bush leading Gore by more than 100,000 votes, the networks declared that Bush had carried Florida and therefore been elected president. But most of the remaining votes to be counted in Florida were in three heavily Democratic counties—Broward, Miami-Dade, and Palm Beach—and as their votes were reported Gore began to gain on Bush. By 4:30 a.m., after all votes were counted, Gore had narrowed Bush’s margin to under 2,000 votes, and the networks retracted their declarations that Bush had won Florida and the presidency. Gore, who had privately conceded the election to Bush, withdrew his concession. The final result in Florida was slim enough to require a mandatory recount (by machine) under state law; Bush’s lead dwindled to just over 300 votes when it was completed the day after the election. On November 8, Florida Division of Elections staff prepared a press release for Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris that said overseas ballots must be “postmarked or signed and dated” by Election Day. It was never released. A count of the overseas ballots later boosted Bush’s margin to 930 votes. (According to a report by The New York Times, 680 of the accepted overseas ballots were received after the legal deadline, lacked required postmarks or a witness signature or address, or were unsigned or undated, cast after election day, from unregistered voters or voters not requesting ballots, or double-counted).
Most of the post-electoral controversy revolved around Gore’s request for hand recounts in four counties (Broward, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, and Volusia), as provided under Florida state law. Harris, who also co-chaired Bush’s Florida campaign, announced she would reject any revised totals from those counties if they were not turned in by 5 p.m. on November 14, the statutory deadline for amended returns. The Florida Supreme Court extended the deadline to November 26, a decision later vacated by the U.S. Supreme Court. Miami-Dade eventually halted its recount and resubmitted its original total to the state canvassing board, while Palm Beach County failed to meet the extended deadline, turning in its completed recount results at 7 p.m., which Harris rejected.
Believe it or not, there was a lot of other news going on as the election controversy dragged on. President Clinton was visiting Vietnam, an Israeli soldier was killed in the Gaza Strip after a ceasefire was declared and iconic broadcast journalism pioneer Robert Trout died at 91.
That’s how it went, September 18, 2000.
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