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DECISION 2000 / AMERICA WAITS

Q&a

So what happens next? Can Florida vote again?

November 12, 2000

Some questions and answers about the election and the vote recount in Florida that could decide whether Vice President Al Gore or Texas Gov. George W. Bush will be the next president:

Who won the popular vote?

Gore leads Bush by about 200,000 votes nationwide out of about 100 million cast, according to incomplete and unofficial returns.

What about the electoral college?

A candidate need not win a majority of popular votes to become president, just a majority in the electoral college. In a presidential election, voters cast ballots for 538 electors, not directly for president and vice president. It takes 270 electoral votes to win the White House. In 48 states, whoever wins a state wins all the state's electors. In Maine and Nebraska, two electors are chosen at large by statewide popular vote; the rest are selected by popular vote in each congressional district.

Why is Florida so important?

Not counting Florida, Bush has won 246 electoral votes and Gore 262. Whoever wins Florida's 25 electoral votes wins the presidency.

Can electors switch their votes?

Yes, but electors are expected to cast their ballots as decided by their state's voters. While there is no constitutional provision or federal law binding electors to candidates, about half the states have laws requiring electors to vote as pledged. Legal experts say, however, that such laws are probably unconstitutional.

Who are the electors?

Each state party appoints a group of electors for each candidate, primarily party loyalists, equal to the number of its senators and representatives in Congress. The District of Columbia gets three electors.

Why was a statewide recount conducted in Florida?

The recount was mandated by Florida law because the vote was so close. State laws control most aspects of voting, even in federal elections, so Florida law also would likely govern any potential legal challenges to the outcome.

When will Florida have a final result?

Unclear. Absentee ballots mailed from overseas have until Friday to arrive in Florida. Also, a manual recount of all votes in Volusia County is scheduled to start today. Palm Beach County was already recount-ing a portion of the ballots by hand to determine if a larger recount is warranted. Broward County is slated to begin a partial hand recount Monday. Pending before officials in Miami-Dade County is a request by the Gore camp for a hand recount.

In Palm Beach County there were 10,582 ballots--ballots that were not disqualified--that did not record a vote for any presidential candidate. Why?

It's possible that some voters simply did not indicate a choice for president. It's also possible, however, that the ballot was not punched properly. If the hole is not punched through, for example, the paper "chad" clinging to the ballot would prevent the computer from reading the ballot. Could such ballots still influence the race? Yes. There is a chance such ballots could be included during recounts underway or requested and a vote recorded if the chad falls off, which often happens when the ballot is run through a machine a second time.

In Palm Beach County, 19,120 ballots were disqualified. Why?

The ballots were disqualified because voters punched two holes for presidential candidates. As a result, no presidential votes were recorded from these ballots. Although some reports have said these ballots were "tossed out," that does not mean they were destroyed.

Some voters have charged that a confusing ballot used in Palm Beach County caused some Gore supporters to vote accidentally for Reform candidate Pat Buchanan. They have alleged that the ballot's design violates Florida law. Is the ballot legal?

According to Florida officials, the ballot is legal. The ballot in question is the "butterfly" ballot, in which names of candidates appear opposite each other on facing pages. Confusion on the ballot's legality has arisen, state officials said, because a Florida law governing paper ballots says voters must place a cross to the right of a candidate's name. On a butterfly ballot, the voter punches a hole that can appear to the left or right of a candidate's name.

Could there be a revote in Florida?

Court-ordered elections are rare nationwide, but a Florida judge did order a revote two years ago in the disputed Miami mayor's race, citing "fraudulent, intentional and criminal conduct" involving absentee votes. Ultimately, the election was over-turned, but not on a revote--an appeals court found enough evidence to reverse the election.

Will there be recounts in other states?

Uncertain, but Democratic and Republican officials have mentioned the possibility of recounts in other states with tight races, such as Iowa, Wisconsin and New Mexico.

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