In cities and towns across America, before heading off to work, during
lunch break, or after another day at the office, people went to the
to cast their votes for the next president of the United States.
(All told more than 105 million people voted for president, but some
during early voting periods or by absentee ballot). About as many
eligible voters did not vote, citing reasons such as being too
or unable to get time off, lack of interest, the sentiment that "my
doesn't make a difference," inadequate knowledge of the candidates or
of the candidates. As subsequent events showed, however, in this
election each and every vote was critical.
Voter News Service
What the viewer sees
election night, and in the newspaper the next morning, is the
of months of preparation and planning. A key entity in bringing the
to the nation is Voter News Service, a cooperative formed by ABC News,
the Associated Press, CBS News, Cable News Network, Fox News and NBC
VNS performs two distinct functions. First, it does Election Day exit
polling, surveying voters in randomly selected precincts as they
polling places. On November 5, 1996 VNS's national exit poll surveyed
voters in 300 randomly selected precincts. VNS also does individual
exit polls. Exit polls provide a window on the concerns of voters and
information on variations in voting behavior by gender, race, age,
income and other factors. VNS's second function is to collect, tabulate
and distribute unofficial election night vote results for
Senate, House and gubernatorial races. VNS works with election
in every county in the country to gather these results. On election
stringers and reporters in tens of thousands of precincts around the
call in reports to VNS, which then processes and transmits the
election night is as good as it gets, a chance to show what they can
Anchors man elaborate sets, correspondents around the country file
and, as the evening progresses, states are called one way or another
the map begins to fill in with red and blue. The
At some point in the
the outcome has become apparent to all, not just those with access to
exit polls. The defeated candidate calls the victor to concede
then delivers his or her concession speech. The president-elect
his or her victory speech to jubilant supporters.
The Morning After...What Does
The days after the
are peak season for pundits as they assess, analyze, discuss and debate
the meaning of the results. Various interest groups offer their
post-election assessments, often using the opportunity to point to the
impact their constituency had on the outcome or to launch some barbs at
Election Day: Take 2...The
As you will recall
high school, the president is not selected by direct popular vote, but
by intermediaries known as electors. The electoral system is outlined
the Twelfth Amendment to the Constitution, adopted in 1804 (this
modified the original provisions contained in Article II). Each state
a number of electors equal to its number of congressmen and Senators.
District of Columbia has three electors, bringing the total to 538.
states use a winner-take-all rule; all the state's electors go to the
of the popular vote in the state.
activists. Some months before the election each party puts together a
of electors, chosen by congressional district with the exception of the
two at-large Senate slots. If the party's presidential candidate wins
popular vote in the state on Election Day, its electors meet in the
capitol on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December
If not they stay home.
Gathering for the
ceremony at the state capitol, electors sign the certificate of
they sign several copies of the document so there are back-ups.
are separate votes for president and for vice president. Each
sends one copy of the certificate of vote to the Office of the
of the United States Senate. Finally, on January 6th, in a
joint session of Congress these envelopes are opened and tallied and
outcome of the election is officially certified.
this is a routine
affair. Because of the Florida controversy, some Democrats [Democrats.com]
still had not given up on January 6, 2001 even though Vice President
had conceded. Members of the Congressional Black Caucus tried to
get Congress to reject Florida's electors, but they could not find a
to support their effort [as required by 3
U.S.C. Sect. 15].
Al Gore presided over the joint session of Congress that certified
W. Bush as the winner of the 2000 election.
for the Study
of the American Electorate. 2000 figures from Census Bureau and
Age Population (VAP)
1. For the five
elections from 1952-1968, turnout hovered around 60%.
Election Night Coverage: What
The House Subcommittee
Telecommunications, Trade & Consumer Protection (Commerce), chaired
by Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-LA), held hearings on the effects of the
election night projections on Feb. 14, 2001.
CNN commissioned an independent review panel which produced a report
Konner, James Risser, and Ben Wattenberg. "Television's
on Election Night 2000: A Report for CNN," Jan. 29, 2001] (PDF
and it is instituting new
policies for election night coverage.
Antitrust Institute Calls for Break Up of VNS (11/27/00)
More Useful Links
National Election Studies
"Guide to Public Opinion and Electoral Behavior"
(National Archives site)
Proposing That the Electoral College Be Abolished
Democracy (seeks abolition of Electoral College)
1996 Maps and
2001 Eric M. Appleman/Democracy in Action.