Looking to the past and finding the future: Florida’s lessons in 2000

In the year 2000, George W. Bush and Al Gore played one of the most intricate moments in the American electoral system – at least, until now. At the time, the decision was made one month after election day and taken in court. Looking back, what can be predicted for the times that are coming in America?

The contemporary scene is a replica of what happened two decades ago. Screaming Republican supporters asking to stop vote counting. The context, however, is not the same. Let’s go back to the past.

In November 2000, the world was different. The United States too. In the week of the presidentials that opposed the democrat Al Gore (later known for the documentary “Inconvenient Truth”) to the republican George W. Bush, in the musical top were the Creed, with their “With Arms Wide Open” (“With the Arms Well Open “), a pandemic was a distant scenario and the idea of using airplanes as missiles just seemed silly.

When the polls close, the main American broadcasters start with the projections. And they all agree on one thing: Florida, in the far southeast of the country, gave its 25 electoral votes to George W. Bush, son of former President George Bush. However, as in 2020, when the certainties are dissipated with the counting, also during the election night of November 7, 2000, the certainties were shaky.

Still, at 2:17 this morning, Fox News decidedly delivered Florida to the Republican candidate. Not wanting to be left behind, before 4 am all the televisions had already done the same. By this time, George W. Bush already had Ohio, Tennessee, and Missouri on his side. Al Gore had Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Illinois.

Having marked his destiny, Al Gore calls the Republican opponent and assumes defeat, thus putting an end to the election night. Then the Democrat prepares for the speech. He will publicly assume the result, congratulate the opponent. It is an important process in the electoral protocol. From the moment one candidate assumes defeat, the other wins. Bush celebrates.

Forty-five minutes have passed since the call with Bush when Al Gore is caught. Counting the votes narrows the margins and everything is blurred. And now? Now, Al Gore has to do something unusual: call George W. Bush back and take back what he said – the race was not over yet.

The Republican is furious. The brother, Jeb, who at the time was the governor of Florida, had assured him that he was ahead, to which Al Gore said: “your younger brother does not decide the elections”.

Televisions begin to portray themselves at dawn, to retreat to the certainties they had given hours before – and the United States wakes up not knowing who will be the next president.

In total, Al Gore even had more popular votes than Bush. In fact, he had even more votes than Bill Clinton, the Democratic president of the 1990s, had in both elections. But, as these days everyone starts to get tired of knowing, the number of votes of citizens does not translate into the number of votes of the Electoral College. It would happen again in 2016, but that year, it was the first time in 112 years that this happened.

With both sides accusing themselves of irregularities – pointing to fraud, confused ballot papers, poorly counted, racial discrimination and even illegal and intimidating maneuvers, in a mutual effort to “steal” the election in Florida – to the Supreme Court, on December 12, 2000, to end the recounts of votes in that state. And even the decision of the highest court in the United States reflected the division of society (four on one side, five on the other).

Only after five weeks of recounting did Al Gore finally assume defeat. He did it in a speech of less than seven minutes for television. About an hour later, spending ten minutes, George W. Bush did his. 66 million people watched the message of the loser, three million more than those who saw the winner.

“Good night. I just finished talking to George W. Bush a few moments ago. And I congratulated him on becoming the 43rd President of the United States “- announced Gore -” and I promised I wouldn’t call him back “.

And the fault of Bush’s victory was… Florida.

How many points does a wish have?

In the hours after the setback in winning the victory, Florida was soon in the spotlight. So much so that the details stopped being so, starting to scream in everyone’s eyes. In Palm Beach, for example, Pat Buchanan, a candidate accused of being racist and anti-Semitic, was performing well. The strange thing was that this happened in a community with many Jews and African Americans.

The blame was not on any sadistic feeling of these people, but on the ballot paper itself. They call it the butterfly bulletin, a paper folded in half, which puts the votes in Buchanan and Gore too close – so close that complaints soon arrived from those who claimed to be shuffled by the sheet and misled.

As if that were not enough, yet another technical flaw is discovered in the ballot papers and in the voting procedure. Jealous of their methods, the Americans used a machine to perforate the paper, thus marking the intended vote. The device, however, was not always able to cut the paper, leaving some bulletins without perforation, or with it done in the middle. Thus, it was up to those responsible to perceive and decide the intentionality of the marks on the paper, since the badly perforated bulletins were not processed correctly by the counting machines.

In this scenario, the Democratic candidate asks for a recount of the votes. By court order, the results have yet to be certified, while an automatic recount on the 10th reveals that Bush’s advantage is 327 votes. But two days later, Palm Beach starts counting by hand, while Al Gore urges other counties in Florida to do the same.

At stake is the presidency, underline. Whoever won Florida, won everything and would be the 43rd president of the United States. That is why Republicans are starting a campaign against the recount. In the courts, however, George W. Bush’s will is barred.

The pressure is growing. And on November 23, 2000, in the face of all the intimidating maneuvers of Bush supporters, Miami-Dade County decides to stop counting, with thousands of newsletters to review. And the voices of that past scream the same as those of today: Republicans do not want to continue counting; Democrats want the process to continue (although the reasons for 2000 are different from those for 2020, where postal votes seem to be the theme).

Until the Supreme Court accepts an appeal from Bush and, on December 12, orders the accounting to stop.

Trump seeks to halt the process – and has already asked the court for help

It didn’t take long to see Donald Trump’s team start to contest the election results in court. But the context of twenty years ago is not that of today. There are no reports of problems with ballot papers, nor evidence of flawed counting. The big news in 2020 is the amount of votes by mail, the fault of the covid-19 pandemic. And the large number of votes in general, at a time when Joe Biden and Donald Trump are the candidates with the most votes in the history of the United States.

In a message shared on the social network Twitter, Trump calls for the need for intervention by the Supreme Court (most of whom are in favor of Republicans):

“I will easily WIN the Presidency of the United States with LEGAL VOTES DEPOSITED. OBSERVERS have not been authorized in any way or form to do their job and therefore votes accepted during this period must be considered ILLEGAL VOTES. The Supreme US court must decide! “Wrote Donald Trump in his personal account.

For now, judges in Georgia, Michigan, and Pennsylvania have rejected the lawsuits filed by the Donald Trump campaign, contrary to the strategy of attacking the integrity of the electoral process in states whose results may dictate the president’s defeat in the elections.

According to a lawyer for the Joe Biden campaign, lawsuits without results are more a political strategy than a legal one, reports the AP agency. “I want to emphasize that, as a purpose, these actions do not need to be successful. That is not the goal … It is to create an opportunity to send false information about what is happening in the electoral process ”, shot Bob Bauer, who accuses the Trump campaign of” continually alleging irregularities, system failures, and unsound fraud “.

The lawyer was speaking just hours before Donald Trump posted on the social network Twitter: “All the recent states claimed by Biden will be legally contested by us for electoral fraud and state electoral fraud. Lots of evidence – just check the media. We’ll win! America First! [in Portuguese, America first] ”.

Source: Lusa

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