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Friday, 10 November, 2000, 12:00 GMT
Gordon Corera answered your questions

Gordon Corera, BBC US Affairs Analyst, joined our live chat room on Thursday, November 9th, to answer your questions on the US election cliffhanger.


Transcript of the Live Chat

News-Host Hello, and welcome to News Online's chat with Gordon Corera, the BBC's US Affairs Analyst. He's an expert in US electoral history and will be answering your questions New on the amazing election cliffhanger that has transfixed the world. Two days after the polls closed, we still don't know who the next president of the US will be. You can start sending your questions now. Gordon is ready to start answering your questions.
Here's the first question.

Richard Milhous: Even if VP Gore wins Florida, should he not step aside for Governor Bush, as he has already conceded defeat to him. If not, what sort of example does such a going back on his word set?

Gordon Corera: Al Gore did concede to Governor George Bush but then retracted it. Concessions like this have no official meaning. This concession was only based only on a projection by the TV network that he would lose Florida by a large margin and the network has got it wrong not for the first time.

John Franklin, UK: What happens if after the recount in Florida the margin between Bush and Gore is still less than the 0.5% that triggered the recount in the first place. Would a second recount be required?

Gordon Corera: We don't think a second recount is required. The key question is whether the Al Gore campaign or private citizens decide to take a lawsuit out. We also need to wait to see the overseas absentee ballots before we have a final vote count. The state officials must wait until at least November 17th to certify the result which is when they become final....

Java: Why is ONLY Florida being investigated so closely? It seems to me that these problems could also have arisen elsewhere.

Gordon Corera: There are a number of other states where the election was nearly but not quite as close as Florida. Florida is being investigated because the number of Electoral College votes there but it is possible that either candidate start asking similar questions in other states.
We also heard about problems with the polls closing times in Missouri.

John Bond: How do you think the problems with the Palm Beach voters who meant to vote for Gore will be dealt with? Do you think the legal challenge will succeed?

Gordon Corera: It definitely seems like something strange happened in Palm Beach. A professor has analysed the result and he reckons that judging by the rest of Florida, Buchanan should have received less than 1,000 votes rather than the 3,407 he received there. But it is not clear whether this problem actually involves any illegality.

Ivan Finch: Is it true the postal votes will mostly be for Bush due to a majority coming from pro-Republican military overseas?

Gordon Corera: That is what some people think but we also heard that the Democrats were organising hard overseas, especially for instance in Israel where you can expect a lot of Democrats voting for Gore because of Joe Lieberman as his running mate.

Lesley Barlette, USA: News reports are reporting that Gore is closing the gap on Bush. But only half of the ballots have been recounted so isn't this misleading? This is exactly what happened last time with the press jumping the gun.

Gordon Corera: I agree as with election night it all depends on which counties have reported their results. Some are very heavily democratic others are heavily Republican making it very hard to call. A lot of people seemed to forget this on election night.

Chris Hanna: Is it possible for the Florida ballot to be declared void by the Supreme Court? Would that mean re-running the entire election?

Gordon Corera: This situation is unprecedented as everyone keeps saying which means we really don't know what will happen next. It is a situation for state courts to deal with first but it could go higher especially if there was any violation of federal voting regulations.

Tim McLaughlin, USA: Is it not a point of the Electoral College system that it helps to ensure that each state has a certain degree of "pull" in the election so that every state may be campaigned to? If this system was not in place then would not the American people always be subject to the will of the geographically dense populations?

Gordon Corera: The advantage of the Electoral College is the that candidates travel to some smaller states in search of their electoral college votes rather than just pile up popular votes in the big states. However, large swathes of America were completely ignored by the two candidates in this campaign. No system is perfect.

Dr Who: How serious are the allegations of voter intimidation? If they are serious, it means the result has almost certainly been changed by these activities and might this result in holding the Florida vote again?

Gordon Corera: We have very little real evidence of voter intimidation so far despite the rumours. Most of the evidence is of voters making mistakes. Voter intimidation, especially if based on race, would be a very serious matter. Jesse Jackson is speaking about this at this very minute.

Terry Hoggart: In the past, has the Electoral College ever decided not to vote for who they are supposed to?

Gordon Corera: Constitutionally members of the Electoral College do not have to follow the popular vote although a number of states have legal penalties if they do not follow their voters' wishes. Occasionally electors have deviated but never enough to change a result in modern times.

Richard Milhous: Do the private citizens in Florida who spoiled their ballots have any chance of success from a legal standpoint? It would seem quite obvious to most people that if you vote twice then your paper will be invalidated?

Gordon Corera: Voters who made mistakes on their ballot and noticed it at the time could have requested new ballots but if they did not do so, it is technically too late.

Imran, Pakistan: When can we expect a final result?

Gordon Corera: The most optimistic view would be that we would know a result in a few hours after the recount. However, this is unlikely. We will probably wait days for absentee ballots and for legal challenges. The Electoral College that elects the president only meets in mid-December and the new president does not take office until January 20th.

Michael Asserston, UK: Is it conceivable, that 10 days after election day, when all the overseas/military/absentee votes have been received, there will still be no clear winner between Bush and Gore?

Gordon Corera: Only if a legal challenge is underway. After 17th November, Florida can certify its results and they become official.

George Wright, England: Is it not the case that the prospect for a President in the 21st Century who does not have a popular majority will be an undermining of his credibility as representing the ideal of democracy on the world stage?

Gordon Corera : I am not sure if that is true. British Prime Ministers very rarely win a majority of the vote. I think the American system will survive such a problem; it has proved remarkably resilient.

Terry Hoggart: Given the large number of voter errors that seemed to have occurred in Florida, can we be absolutely certain that all the declared results of the other states will not be challenged too?

Gordon Corera: That is the nightmare scenario. George Bush, for instance, could challenge Gore's tight victory in Wisconsin but I don't think it is that likely.

Harry Hayfield: Does this election spell the end of the current Electoral College?

Gordon Corera: People have talked in the past about abolishing it. In the 1970s, a number of Bills came before Congress to change the system but interest disappeared as the election faded from view. My guess is the same may happen next time.

Graham Jenkins: When does the electoral vote system date back to?

Gordon Corera: The constitution set up the Electoral College although it was then changed and evolved in the early 19th century to give more of a say to ordinary people. Initially, state legislators selected member of the Electoral College but by 1832, most states chose their electors by popular vote.

Graham Jenkins: Who do you think will win?

Gordon Corera: I have been wrong so many times that I have given up trying!

News-Host That is all we have time for. Thank you to Gordon Corera for taking the time to answer these questions and thanks to all of you for sending them in. Sorry if your question didn't get answered - there just wasn't enough time to cover them all. A full transcript of our chat with Gordon Corera will appear soon at www.bbc.co.uk/talkingpoint.


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