Presidential Elections 2000

Pre-University Paper, 2001

26 Pages, Grade: Note: 2, B

Free online reading

Table of Contents

A. "The most powerful man on earth ..."

B. Presidential Elections 2000
1. U.S. Presidency
1.1. The many Roles of the President
1.2. Powers of the President
2. The System of Presidential Election
2.1. Primaries and Caucuses
2.2. National Conventions
2.3. General Election
2.4. Electoral College
3. Campaign
3.1. The Role of the Media
3.2. Money and Elections
4. Candidates 2000
4.1. Candidates and their Campaigns
4.2. Election Platforms
5. Results 2000
6. The "Florida Problem"
7. Criticism on the System

C. Interview with a "Young American Voter"

D. Bibliography

A. "The most powerful man on earth ..."

In the morning of Wednesday, the November 8, nobody was talking about anything else, there was one subject dominating newspapers, TV, radio, even the Internet: the American Presidential Election 2000.

All media followed the electoral rodeo and broadcast it into every corner of earth. First, Gore was on top, then he fell down and they celebrated Bush as the 43rd President of the USA, just to draw back congratulations some hours later. But not only America, the whole world was busy with discussion, everywhere on the globe, in Germany, Japan or anywhere else, people were excited, happy or sad.

Weeks were passing, the headlines changed, but they were still there, every evening there was new information on TV. The presence of the American elections in the media and the people’s interest in the events, everywhere, is unique, no other election in the world is watched with so much attention. No wonder, because often the American President is called "the most powerful man on earth" and with all his many powers, this does not seem to be an exaggeration.

So the office of the U.S. President, his powerful position in the government and in the world will be the first part of this work, especially there will be a view on his election. The second part will be a description of the "Campaign 2000" and also the problems with the election in Florida.

B. Presidential Elections 2000

1. U.S. Presidency

The Constitution of the United States requires the President to be a "natural born citizen", be at least 35 years old and have lived in the United States for at least 14 years of his life. When having these qualifications, one is allowed to be U.S. President and serve up to two four-year tenures, i.e. 8 years (in case of the succession of a Vice President it may be 10 years). Within this period of time he holds a very important and powerful office and has to play several different roles.

1.1. The many roles of the President

As Chief of State, the U.S. President is the ceremonial head of government, comparable to the Queen of Great Britain, but unlike her, he does not just reign, but also rule the country. The American Constitution defines him as "the executive power of the United States", so he also is the nation’s Chief Executive and the Chief Administrator of the Federal Government, directing an administration with over three million employees. Furthermore the President is the Chief Diplomat, he "makes" foreign policy and is the spokesman of the American people to the rest of the world - and the rest of the world is listening very carefully. A reason for this could be the huge military force of the USA over which the President has got the direct and immediate control as Commander in Chief. Then he plays the role of the Chief Legislator, he is the main creator of public policies and dominates the legislative work of the Congress.

Apart from those constitutional tasks, the U.S. President is always Chief of Party, a position on which much of his power is based. And finally he is the so-called Chief Citizen, what means that he must stand in for all his people and has to represent the public interest against different private interests, like Franklin Roosevelt once defined the Presidency as "a place of moral leadership".

All those roles are part of the President’s power and he has to play each of it at the same time.

None of them can be separated from the others and every one influences the others in some way, so if a President is not able to fit into one of them, he will not stay in office for long.

1.2. Powers of the President

The Constitution established the Presidency in Article II: "The executive power shall be vested in a President of the United States..." By this words (and some other more specific explications within the Constitution), by a number of acts and court decisions and also very much by usage, the office of the U.S. President has been defined and extended over the past three centuries.

To practice his power, he is aided by a huge staff of advisers: the head members of the Cabinet and of the Executive Office. The Cabinet is not at all mentioned in the Constitution, the departments are established by Congress and their heads are appointed by the President (e.g. the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, the Attorney General, the Secretary of the Treasury, etc). The President’s right arm is the Executive Office, a complex out of several agencies that work for the President (e.g. the White House Office, the National Security Council, the Office of Management and Budget, the Council of Economic Advisers, etc).

The office of the U.S. President can hardly be compared with any governmental position in a European country like the German chancellor or the British Prime Minister. Over the centuries, his power has grown out of different reasons, and so within American democracy the President is now more a kind of elected monarch for some time with limited authority. Here is a more detailed view on each of his several powers:

Executive powers: It is the task of the President, to execute and enforce law and to direct administration. Therefore he can issue executive orders and appoint or remove major officers.

Diplomatic powers: He has the right to make treaties, and also executive agreements which do not have to be ratified by Congress. Furthermore he has to send and receive diplomatic representatives and otherwise conduct foreign relations.

Military powers: The President of the United States acts as Commander in Chief of the armed forces and in addition to that he is responsible to keep peace inside the United States.

Legislative powers: He is given the possibility to recommend legislation and he can either approve or veto acts of Congress. He also may call special sessions of Congress and adjourn it, if necessary.

Judicial Powers: Last but not least he has the power to "exercise executive clemency", so he can grant pardons and amnesties, reprieves and commutations.

2. The System of Presidential Election

Now as the versatility of the U.S. President’s office has been shown up, his election is the next point of this research paper. Firstly there will be a look at the nomination of the candidates, with primaries, caucuses and conventions, and then on the further election process, the general election and the electoral college.

Watched from outside, the election and especially the nomination of the candidates seems to be a very complex, or even chaotic event - and it is.

2.1. Primaries and Caucuses

Especially the finding of the candidates for Presidency is very difficult to understand. One reason for this is the fact, that the Constitution did not set out any rules for the nominating process, it has been developed over the centuries. Another reason could be federalism: it is state law, that fixes most of the procedures by which convention delegates are chosen in each of the 50 states, and so every state developed "its way" of nomination. Since the democratization of the nominating process at the beginning of the 20th century, two major forms are existing: the presidential primaries and a multi-staged process consisting of local caucuses and district or state conventions.

Nowadays 36 states exercise some form of the presidential primary. "A primary is an election among supporters of the same party to choose that party’s candidates who run in the general election." The voters either directly choose the candidate himself, or determine delegates who support one of them.

In the other states which do not practice presidential primaries, delegates are chosen in a system of caucuses and conventions. That process is the older method and it also differs from state to state.

One party’s voters are meeting at a local caucus, where delegates for the state or district conventions are picked, and in those conventions, delegates to the party’s national convention are chosen.

2.2. National Conventions

As already mentioned above, the presidential primaries, caucuses and local conventions are ways to determine delegates who are sent to the national convention and vote for a presidential candidate.

The national conventions of the two major parties are held in July or August and last for four days.

The candidate that gets the majority of delegates is that party’s presidential nominee. His name is officially announced during the convention.

Except of the presidential nomination, their national conventions give the parties the possibility to publish their platforms, i.e. their programs for this election.

2.3. General Election

The presidential campaign ends with election day. Millions of voters go to the polls in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The general election day, the day when the nation votes for President, is fixed as "the Tuesday, following the first Monday in November". In fact the people do not directly elect their President, but they choose so-called "electors", who are expected to vote for a certain presidential nominee when the Electoral College is meeting.

2.4. Electoral College

On election day, the electors are chosen by popular vote in every state. Each state has as many electors as it has members of Congress. It is them who actually "vote" the President and Vice President into office. The choosing of the electors works on the "winner-take-all" basis, i.e. the presidential candidate that wins the popular vote in a state, wins all of that state’s electoral votes.

The electoral college of a state is meeting on "the Monday after the second Wednesday in December" somewhere within their state, cast their votes and mail them to the President of the Senate in Washington. The formal election of President and Vice President takes place on January 6th. If no candidate gets the majority (at least 270 of the total 538 electoral votes), then the House of Representatives has to choose among the top three candidates.

The defects of the electoral college, which of course exist, and proposed reforms of the system should be examined in a later point of my work.

3. Campaign

A few days or weeks after the national conventions have been held, the presidential campaign begins. In this time, the candidates - at least the ones of the two big parties, on which I want to concentrate - hire a huge staff of advisers and consultants to organize their publicity and present themselves and their ideas in the best light.

"There are approximately 200 million eligible voters in the United States, half of whom vote. The challenge for presidential candidates is to persuade a plurality of those who vote for them." There are many ways to "persuade" the people, and each of them means a lot of work for the candidate and his campaign organization: "whistle-stop" tours (travelling from city to city, holding speeches, staying only for some hours, in order to reach as many people as possible), party dinners, campaign stickers and buttons, placards and all other forms of promotion. The most effective way to get into contact with the possible voter is of course using the mass media, so this aspect of campaigning should be the next point of this work.

3.1. The Role of the Media

Newspapers, radio and TV, nowadays even the Internet - all media is used by the presidential candidates to reach the voting people. Most of their emphasis is put into Television, no surprise, as about two thirds of the Americans name TV as their first source of information concerning the elections. There are mainly two ways to use the media: either by paying them, doing political advertising or by doing the best to get into the news.

The first way is the more expensive one and consists overall of shorter advertisements, and the publicity departments decide when and where those are sent, in order to reach a certain audience.

Because of the electoral college system and the "winner-takes-it-all" regulation, the statewide elections are of major importance, and therefore most of the commercials are not broadcast on the national networks, like ABC or NBC, but put out via local TV stations, in order to reach those states, where the voters are split evenly between the parties.

Purchasing airtime from TV stations is indeed very expensive, a cheaper possibility is the news, firstly reporting on the campaign and secondly opinion polls. With the rise of TV, presidential candidates began to realize, how important it is to appear in the daily news. They do as much as possible adapt their political strategies and help the newsmakers to fill their programs. On the one side they provide own opinion polls and copies of their advertisements, which can be aired as part of the news, on the other side they hire private investigators to find out everything about their opponents and tell any scandals to the press - the current example is George W. Bush’s "drunken driving" affair.

The opinions are split: on the one hand the use of mass media democratized the elections, because everyone now can be inform as much as he wants to be, but on the other hand there is the danger, that politics are too much adapted to television. Best example for that are the two big national conventions that remind more of a professionally produced TV show than of a party meeting.

Because of technological progress, the opportunities of presidential candidates to get into closer contact with the electorate has expanded very much, especially the Internet has improved political communication. In the next few years, as the barriers to entry the web will become lower, it will continue to change political discourse, probably some day even more than TV.

3.2. Money and Elections

Most of the different forms of campaigning have at least one similarity : they all cost lots of money.

The sums which are spent on presidential campaign financing have been rising over the years, millions and millions of dollars for primaries, conventions and, above all, for advertisement. This chapter will deal with the very important and interesting factor "money" in the presidential elections.

In 1971, Congress passed the "F ederal Election Campaign Act". This act and its amendments regulate the use of money in federal elections and is administrated by the "Federal Election Commission" (FEC). The federal law requires the disclosure of all campaign finance data, it places limits on campaign contributions and expenditures, and it provides public money for the campaign.

The Candidates get money from individuals, party committees and "political action committees" (PACs). Any contribution of more than $200 must be identified and reported to the FEC - so, too, must every spending over $200. No person may give more than $1000 to any federal candidates election campaign, no more than $5000 in a year to a PAC or $20000 to a national party committee. Also, the total of an individual’s contributions must be limited to no more than $25000 per year. Neither foreign nationals nor corporations nor labor unions may themselves make contributions to any candidate, but their PACs can, and do.

If the presidential contenders accept certain spending limits, they automatically get federal campaign subsidies, and also receive public funds to pay for their national conventions. In the past elections, the Republican candidate George W. Bush received a total of federal subsidies of $67,560,000 whereas Democratic candidate Al Gore all in all got $83,016,084.

Like other provisions of election law, these regulations discourage minor-party efforts, because only the candidates of the two major parties automatically receive the money. But nevertheless, a third-party candidate can qualify for federal financing of their campaigns and national conventions, if he receives at least 5 percent of the popular vote in general election.

The public money is provided by a fund maintained by the U.S. Treasury, which is financed by voluntary contributions. Every taxpayer can give $3 of his income tax return to the fund.

In the preconvention period, the presidential hopefuls also can qualify for the public funds, if they first pass a rather complicated barrier, that will not be explained here.

When presidential candidates accept the federal money, they cannot spend more than the amount of the subsidy and are not allowed to accept any further campaign funds. Including all spending of independent PACs and other kinds of so-called "soft money" the Republican candidate George W. Bush spent a total of $183,052,265 while the Democratic candidate Al Gore "only" spent $117,999,909.

4. Candidates 2000

Now, after all these general explanations of how presidential elections happen in the United States, it is time to concentrate on the more current events, on the "Presidential Elections 2000" and all the events that come along with it. First, the two major candidates, the Democratic Party candidate Al Gore Jr. and the Republican Party candidate George W. Bush, will be introduced and their campaigns will be described, and then there will be an overview of the statements they made during the pre-election period, about what they would do if they were elected.

4.1. Candidates and their Campaigns

Before the description of the major candidates’ campaigns, their behaviors and their presentations, here is some general information about them:

Al Gore Jr. was born on the 31st of March 1948, in Carthage, Tennessee, as son of the former U.S. Senator Albert Gore Sr. and Pauline LaFon Gore. He attended Harvard University and received a degree in Government. He served in Vietnam, afterwards worked for a big newspaper in Tennessee and attended a law school. In 1976 he received a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, later became a U.S. Senator of Tennessee. He failed in the democratic presidential nomination in 1988, and was chosen for vice-presidential candidate in 1992, by Bill Clinton. During the years in the Clinton administration he managed to make his name and tried to establish an own political identity. He has been married to Marry Elizabeth "Tipper" Aitcheson for over 30 years and has four children.

George Walker Bush was born on the 6th of July 1946, in Midland, Texas, as son of the former U.S. President George Bush. He received a bachelor’s degree in history at Yale University in 1968 and later a Master of Business Administration from Harvard University. He managed to avoid military service in Vietnam - probably by using his family resources - and was a pilot in the Air National Guard instead. He worked in the Texan energy business in the 70s, lost a bid for Congress in 1978 and supported his father in his political campaigns. He became the Major League Baseball’s Texas Rangers senior administrative officer in 1989. Then finally in 1994 he succeeded in his run for governor of Texas, where he became very popular and was reelected for a second term, e.g. by winning the growing Hispanic vote. He has been married to Laura Bush since 1977 and has 18-year-old twin daughters.

The campaigning after the primaries, during the preconvention period, the so-called "phony war", has been a hard time for the Gore team. As the primaries were over, there was no one left to be attacked, and Gore seemed to need somebody to attack. The press drew a very negative image of him, and moreover there have been internal conflicts in his consulting team - as already mentioned above, the advisers play a very important role during the election campaign. Also, his attitude toward the case of the Cuban refugee boy Elián González did not bring him much sympathy among the people.

While Gore had to struggle with his bad publicity, George W. Bush spent most of his time to show the travelling press corps on his campaign plane, that he was a nice guy, and he had success. He was clowning and hugging and joking around, and so turned most of the reporters into liking him.

In the various national voter polls, Bush was the winner. He was choosing Dick Chenney for vice-presidential candidate, who served as Secretary of Defense in his father’s cabinet, but by and large, he tried to avoid appearing in public with the former President Bush.

At the Republican national convention, almost 85 percent of the delegates voted for him being the party’s presidential candidate.

But if Governor Bush thought, he had already won the elections, then he was wrong. Al Gore’s campaign experienced a turnaround when it was joined by two veteran Democratic party advisers in early summer. In the following weeks and months, especially at the Democratic national convention in Los Angeles, Gore managed to develop a very populist image of himself, as being "... for the people, not the powerful", and picked Joe Lieberman, an Orthodox Jew, for vice-presidential running mate. The Democratic candidate tried to keep distance to President Clinton. In his convention speech he told his audience: "I’m standing here tonight as my own man."

One of the most outstanding events of the Campaign 2000 was the moment, when Al Gore arrived at the podium and gave his wife a passionate kiss, which probably was decisive for many undecided female voters.

He finally got over 90 percent of the delegates’ votes at the convention.

After the Democratic convention, it was Bush who had to realize, that the press had turned its back to him. This distracted him a lot, and so he himself developed a more distanced attitude toward the reporters. It was mainly his wife, who made him going to evening talk shows, in order to get a more positive image of him on the TVs. And when he kissed the famous talk master Oprah on her cheek, it was called "The Kiss II".

In this period of the campaign, also problems appeared between the Bush camp and the Republican National Committee (RNC), because the RNC aired several advertisements, without having arranged with the campaigning team in Austin. In addition to that, the Governor seemed to be a little bit afraid of the official TV debates that where coming closer and closer now. But not only Bush was busy with thinking about the debates, the "hottest" period of campaigning.

As well as the Bush team, the Gore campaign tried to prepare its candidate as good as possible.

The debates were practiced over and over, a stage was built to resemble the debate site, and every answer, every joke was carefully prepared and tested, in how far it would influence the voters.

The debate itself was a draw, because Gore did not do enough to attack Bush’s tax plan, the voters were confused by the numbers and so Gore did not manage to produce himself as the one who would "fight for working families". Even worse: the media, as well as the Bush campaign, started picking on him because of his various rhetorical exaggerations, and the people had got the impression that he was kind of arrogant and always wanted to show that he is the smartest. And Lieberman did not do any better in the vice presidential debate.

Gore tried to make it better in the second TV debate, but he did not. This time he was too calm and cautious, and although "Bush’s success was more a matter of style than of substance", he clearly was pronounced as the winner of Debate II. And so Gore changed his strategy again for the third debate: he was more aggressive and in many eyes seemed to be the winner on at least some of the subjects, but in the opinion polls afterwards, he lost some points. Governor Bush already felt like had won the elections.

Now for the last days before Election Day, both campaigns had to focus on the so-called "swinging states", i.e. states that were either clearly Democratic nor Republican territory. The "swing-voters" had to be mobilized and so the campaigns started massive mailing actions, e.g. to Florida voters alone the Bush camp sent out 17 million mailings. The Democrats ware not able to send as much mails, because those efforts certainly are very expensive, but they had more people on the streets, knocking on doors. In the states where the votes were almost equally split, additional air time was purchased and with every day, the campaign got more nasty and seemed to become a kind of mud fight.

On the last Thursday before Election Day there seemed to appear a light at the end of the tunnel for the Gore campaign: the news came up, that George W. Bush had been arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol in 1976, although he had pretended that he had never been arrested since 1968. But the story only was on for some days and then it was forgotten, it did not influence the polls very much, no, it even seemed to make Bush sympathetic. So the campaign had to go on with unreduced intensity, almost 24 hours a day, until the end, on the morning of Election Day.

The end? Not really, but the following events and the legal battle in Florida will be reviewed in a later chapter.

4.2. Election Platforms

Barry Goldwater, the Republican presidential nominee in 1964 once said: "Platforms are written to be ignored and forgotten ... like Jell-O shimmering on a dessert plate, there is usually little substance and nothing you can get your teeth into." Although Presidents are human beings and of course sometimes break their promises, the issues that are made during the campaign still have their importance, because they show you - or at least let you have an idea of - where the candidates stand, and so they certainly influence the voters’ behavior.

Every campaign has some issues that dominate the scene, this time the most distant positions were concerning tax-cuts, education, energy policy and social security, i.e. health care and retirement.

Apart from this there were several other "smaller" concerns like abortion or gun control.

To present and interpret the two different models of tax and economy policy would probably be too much for this point. In short: Bush supposes large cuts of federal taxes and expenditures, while Gore is mainly for continuing the policy of the last 8 years, he only wants tax-cuts for the lower middle-class and above all reduce the national dept.

On the one side George W. Bush wants less federal involvement in many affairs like health care and other aspects of social security, as well as education and gun control, and plans to transfer more responsibility to state level. On the other side we have Al Gore who plans to increase federal spending to improve the education system, and supports investments in medical care, especially for seniors, and saving of the environment.

Mr. Gore supports affirmative action laws, to end discrimination because of sex, race or sexual orientation, including a so-called "Employee Non-Discrimination Act", but Mr. Bush strongly opposes any kind of anti-discrimination laws, quotas and racial preferences.

All in all, "... in the age-old tension of the American system, Bush leans more toward freedom; Gore tilts more toward democracy. Those views are squarely in the traditions of their parties."

The current energy problem is also answered differently by the two candidates: Governor Bush favors exploiting the Alaskan gas and oil reserves, the building of new pipelines and the use of coal technology, Vice President Gore opposes oil exploration in the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge, and - because of protection of the environment - he wants to support cleaner sources of energy, e.g. solar power, and the more efficient use of energy. So he seems to be the environmentalist, while Bush is the one who supports tearing down "regulatory hurdles".

Other problems almost seem to have become traditional: the right of gays to serve openly in the military - demanded by Gore and refused by Bush, the abortion rights, which are supposed by the Democrats but opposed by the Republicans, or the right to carry concealed weapons, where it is the other way round.

The one has arguments for, the other one against, in each of all those issues. The people have to decide, whose arguments count more, or perhaps just who they like more. How they decided, I want to analyze in the next chapter.

5. Results 2000

On election day, Tuesday, November 7, 2000, the people of the United States of America elected their new president - at least half of it, the other half had decided not to decide. And the result was everything but clear. After all the trouble in Florida, which will be explained in the next point of this paper, the popular vote is split almost equally: 50,996,116 votes for Gore and 50,456,169 votes for Bush, but on the other side only 266 electoral votes for the Democrat and 271 for the Republican candidate, what made Governor Bush the new President-elect, although more citizens had been voting for Vice President Gore - an evidence for a serious defect of the Electoral College system.

This narrow result is typical for almost all U.S. elections in the past few years, so is America a split nation? This leads us to another very interesting question: "Who voted for which candidate?" By taking a look on the results by state, you can see that the Democrats are still holding the areas at the west-coast, the north-east and New England, while the Republicans dominate the more rural areas, the South and the mid-west, and when you look at the exit polls, this fact is confirmed. Colored people usually tend to vote Democratic, the overwhelming majority of the blacks still does, but on the other hand, about one-third of Latinos voted Republican. Especially in the Southern states, whites have been much more likely to vote for Bush, here the margin between Bush and Gore has been 35 points, elsewhere it only was around 3 points. Even more important seemed to be the question, how often the voters attend religious service. Of those who never go, 61 percent chose Gore, of those who go more than weekly, the votes were reversed.

But nevertheless, nowadays the biggest group of Americans are the richer middle-class, and the polls say, that in the 2000 election over the half of the eligible voters described themselves as moderates. The USA may be divided at its ends, but in the middle it is hold together by "a bulge of moderate opinion".

6. The "Florida Problem"

"The American people have spoken, but it’s going to take a little while to determine what they said." No one could have expressed it in a better way than Bill Clinton did. But what had happened?

By about 2 a.m. in the night of Election Day, the TV networks called Florida for Governor Bush, and he was already celebrated as 43rd U.S. President. But only an hour later, his opponent Al Gore called him again and retracted his concession: in the Sunshine State, Bush’s lead now only was a few hundred votes, and the margin was still shrinking. The machine recount begins, which is required by Florida state law, because of the narrow result. The networks are forced to take back their estimates, and teams of lawyers from both parties are sent to Florida.

Several mistakes have happened in many Florida counties: the so-called "butterfly ballot" in Palm Beach County seemed to be the reason for over 2000 people accidentally voting for Pat Buchanan the Reform Party’s candidate. Even Buchanan himself admitted in an interview: "Most of those are probably not my vote, and that may be enough to give the margin to Mr. Gore." Also, in other countries large numbers off ballots were found invalid, because the voting machines had not worked properly. Because of all those irregularities, the Gore campaign requested a manual recount.

In some counties, those recounts are started, but because of the small lead of Governor Bush, his campaign immediately tries to get them blocked by the federal court. During the next weeks, several federal and state courts had to deal with suits of different parties, that either wanted recounts to be started or to be blocked.

As Florida is governed by the Republicans, with George W. Bush’s brother Jeb being Governor, also the Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris soon tried to interfere with the legal process.

She ordered to halt the recounts, but the Florida Supreme Court blocked her from any vote certification at this time. The hand counts continued in some counties, and the absentee ballots that arrived, increased Bush’s lead to about 930 votes.

After the Supreme Court "deadline" expired on November 26, Harris certified a 537-vote lead for Governor Bush, without including recounts that have been finished after the deadline. The Bush team already started with planning a federal administration, but then the Supreme Court decided, that Harris should include also recount results after the deadline. Bush called the U.S. Supreme Court, because he thought that the Florida Supreme Court had overstepped its authority. The judges in Washington decided to give the case back to the Florida Court once more, and so on December 8, the Florida Supreme Court, divided 4/3, orders manual recounts in all the "battleground" counties. The recounts were stopped by the U.S. Supreme Court again, the next day, and after the hearing, when the High Court finally had found the hand counts unlawful, Gore accepted the rule and gave his concession speech on December 13.

7. Criticism on the System

Of course, the U.S. electoral system is not faultless, one reason for that is probably its age. Many aspects, like e.g. the whole Electoral College system have been constructed more than 200 years ago and nowadays do not make much sense any longer.

The most critical defect of the Electoral College probably is the threat, that a candidate could win the popular vote, but not win the Presidency, which happened already three times in history, and also in the current election. This is possible, firstly because of the "winner-take-all" regulation, and secondly because of the distribution of electoral votes among the states, e.g. in one state an electoral vote can represent 500,000 people, in another state it perhaps could only stand for 150,000 citizens.

Another defect is the "faithless elector", i.e. nothing in the Constitution actually forces the elector to vote for the candidate that he should elect. This defect, too, showed up in the 2000 election, when one elector from Washington, D.C. abstained from voting for Al Gore.

Although those problems exist, and it probably would be much easier to get the President elected by another way, e.g. by a direct popular election, the system will probably not be changed in the nearer future. With the current system, the smaller states are greatly overrepresented in the Electoral College, and as that states do not want to loose influence, every reform probably will be vetoed by Congress.

In addition to these problems, which are rooted in the system itself, there are also other problems with the way the elections are organized. A law that regulates the counting of the votes, or at least regulates who has the right to decide, e.g. over recounts, would not be bad at all.

C. Interview with a "Young American Voter"

A few days after Christmas 2000, the never ending campaign finally had come to an end, I had the opportunity to talk with my American exchange student Matt, who stayed in Germany for a couple of days, and ask him some questions, concerning the American Elections 2000. And as I found it very interesting, to hear what a "young American voter" thinks about the past events, the interview with him should form the end of this research-paper.

Hallo Matt, please describe yourself in a few words.

My name is Matthew Eggers, I am a 19 year old male in the United States of America. I am currently a freshman student at the University of Texas at Austin. I grew up in Plano, Texas, a large suburb of Dallas which now has almost 200,000 inhabitants. I don't have any job right now.

I spend most of my time studying at the University for my Electrical Engineering degree.

For whom did you vote in the past "Presidential Elections 2000"?

I didn't vote.

Why not?

I didn't vote because I am not very politically aware of the happenings that go on. I found out a week before the election, that I had to be registered in Austin to vote in Austin, and I would have had to register at least a month before the election to be able to vote. I was not aware of this until it was too late. I didn't vote because of my lack of knowledge of the system.

Who would have been "your" candidate?

I would have voted for the Green Party’s candidate Ralph Nader.

But it was clear that Nader didn't have any chance to win the elections ...

I live in the state of Texas, which Bush was the governor of, and I knew that Gore had no chance of winning in Texas. So I would have voted for Ralph Nader, because he needed to get at least 5 percent of the popular vote, to receive public funding for his campaign. I would have voted for Gore if I lived in any other state.

Why would you have been more likely to vote for Gore?

Because while not being a member of either party, I am more Democrat than Republican. I don't think that the government should give a large tax break to everybody, but instead should use the money for education and for better public transportation or maybe health care.

You know: Gore got the majority of the popular vote, but did not become President, do you think it would be time for a reform of the system?

I think that the electoral system is something that is a stupid idea, but what is more important than changing the electoral system is the way that the votes are counted. I think that if we had a better way of getting the votes counted, possibly something that was done electronically, we could have the votes counted without any problems, and not have to worry about having re-counts like they had in Florida.

What was your impression of the events in Florida?

I think that the events in Florida were because of old technologies being used, and people misusing the system doing stuff with the ballots, losing the boxes and tampering with the results. Bush had the most counted votes in Florida, but there will always be the question of whether or not he really did win.

All right, Matt. Thank you a lot for answering my questions.

You're welcome.

D. Bibliography


1.) McClenaghan, William A.: Magruder’s American Government, Prentice Hall, Needham, Massachusetts, 1989


2.) Newsweek, October 9, 2000

3.) Newsweek, November 20, 2000


4.) (23.01.2001)

5.) (23.01.2001)

6.) (23.01.2001)

7.) (23.01.2001)

8.) (01.02.2001)

9.) (01.02.2001)

10.) (01.02.2001)

11.) (01.02.2001)

12.) (30.01.2001)

13.) (25.01.2001)

14.) (27.01.2001)

15.) (02.02.2001)

16.) (02.02.2001)

26 of 26 pages


Presidential Elections 2000
Note: 2, B
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
File size
379 KB
Presidential, Elections
Quote paper
Flrorian Seidl (Author), 2001, Presidential Elections 2000, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


  • guest on 11/25/2001


    Interessante Notiz... ziemlich so mit nase hoch wa? biste immer so??? ... durchgelesen hab ichs net... warum auch suche hier nach virginia... finde aber wiedermal nur scheiße.
    grüße--- aha

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