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Q&a

DECISION 2000 / AMERICA WAITS

So what happens next? Can Florida vote again?

November 12, 2000

Automatic recounts, like the one conducted in Florida when the margin dipped below 0.5%, do not occur in Iowa or Wisconsin. In Iowa, if the vote margin is less than 1%--as it is now in Gore's favor--a candidate can ask for a recount without paying for it. If the margin is higher, the candidate must post a $99,000 bond for a statewide recount. In Wisconsin, a recount is free if the margin of victory is less than 0.5%, as it is now, according to the state election code. There is no provision for an automatic recount in New Mexico. After Nov. 28, the day the secretary of state certifies the election, anyone can request a recount. The request is auto-matically granted if the requesting party is willing to pay for the recount.

What's the deadline for picking a new president?

Bill Clinton is president until Jan. 20, when the new president is sworn in. The presidential electors meet Dec. 18, usually in their state capitals, to vote for president and vice president. On Jan. 6, the president of the Senate--Vice President Gore--announces the winner to a joint session of Congress.

What if the situation isn't settled by Dec. 18? Could the electoral college vote without Florida?

Scholarly opinion is divided on this question. Some argue the president can be chosen without every state's electoral votes being counted because the Constitution only requires a majority of the electors, not that every elector votes. By this reasoning, if Florida's votes are left in limbo or removed for some legal reason, the remaining electors would pick the president. Such a scenario probably would give Gore the presidency. Other scholars argue, however, that if neither candidate can obtain at least 270 votes, the issue would go to the House of Representatives. There, each state delegation would have one vote, and a majority of delegations are dominated by Republicans.

Has there ever been an election like this?

In 1960, John F. Kennedy defeated Richard Nixon by 0.2% of the vote, but the electoral college outcome was clear. Only three times before has a presidential candidate lost the popular vote but won the electoral college.

Why was the electoral college created?

The electoral college was created as a compromise between direct election of the president and election by Congress. Proponents claimed the system would protect minority interests and require distributed popular support. Modern-day supporters of the electoral college say the system gives small states a say in presidential elections because it discourages candidates from spending all their time campaigning in big urban areas.

Source: Staff and wire reports

Source: Staff and wire reports; Elections Division, Florida Department of State

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