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Tuesday, 5 December, 2000, 18:01 GMT
The BBC's Tom Carver answered your questions

Tom Carver, the BBC's Washington correspondent, took your questions as the US electoral process entered its last laps.

He has been following the extraordinary twists and turns of the most hotly contested presidential election in US history.

Click on the button below to watch the forum.

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Transcript


Valerie, Palm Harbor, USA

Gore's campaign continues to argue that if every vote were counted he would actually win. Isn't this looking more unlikely as time goes by?:


Tom Carver:

There are two points there. If every vote was counted he probably would win, if you include the so-called "under-votes". These are these rather controversial votes in which you have a small indentation on the ballot and that is registered by the machines as a no vote. But Gore's supporters say that often happens in the areas where there are poor or illiterate immigrant voters or people who don't understand the voting process and those people tend to be Democrats. I think in the years to come someone will uncover those votes undoubtedly and count them and probably produce a result that goes for Gore.

The trouble is that time is not on Al Gore's side and the judicial process takes a long time to work in any country and he simply hasn't got that time.


Pedro Gomez, Peru

Gore's options seem to be running out. Have the heavyweights in his party begun to desert him?


Tom Carver:

Not yet. I think they feel there is one more throw of the dice and that is the Florida Supreme Court. I think if Al Gore loses in the Florida Supreme Court - probably towards the end of this week we will know whether or not he will win or not - then you will see large numbers of Democrats saying it is time to throw in the towel - he has fought a good fight but he has exhausted the judicial options.


Thomas Worthington,Farnham, Surrey, UK

Why can't Florida just give Bush 13 votes and Gore 12? If the intention is that all votes go to one person why do they have 25 electors, rather than one elector with 25 votes?


Tom Carver:

This brings up the whole curious thing of the Electoral College which is understandably so strange to non-Americans. Basically there are only two states in America which elect their electors to Electoral College proportionately; that is Maine and Nebraska. Everyone else says whoever wins the most votes is the winner - the winner takes all - they get all the votes to the Electoral College. At the end of the day only one person can become president - it is not like a party system where you can have coalitions - so they want a clear result. Unfortunately in this outcome you have an incredibly close race, so every single elector counts but normally that does not happen.


Barry Freeman, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Is there any appetite for reform of the US election law after this fiasco?


Tom Carver:

Yes there is. The Electoral College has more requests for reform than anything else - there is long-time concern about the Electoral College. But I disagree with the idea of fiasco; the fiasco is not in the American constitution, the fiasco occurred in Florida. Florida have been using archaic balloting machines - they are an incredibly wealthy state why didn't they have modern technology to allow people to vote. It is these ancient old cranky machines which has caused this dispute. Normally it wouldn't matter but in a result this close in America, it does matter. As a result of this you will see state legislatures revamping their electoral machinery - millions of dollars is going to be spent on that.

The American constitution is incredibly robust and I think it is a real sign of how impressive it is that they have been deploying lawyers all through this but not tanks. Although it does look as though America has messed up its election, actually it is just working out what is a very long shot in terms of an election result - an incredibly close result.


David Kellogg, Pusan, South Korea:

What was in those two ballot boxes found in a Miami hotel room and a black church?


Tom Carver:

Good question. The media is so fickle; it suddenly reports this thing and then you never hear about it again. However, I some research on this; it turns out that they actually only contained electoral equipment; they were ballot boxes into which some electioneer had put equipment - they didn't contain a single vote so that is why we never heard from them. No smoking gun there!


Brian Capaloff, Huntingdon, England

There would appear to be too large a number of stories regarding the exclusion of black people from the voting process in Florida, but there is no apparent effort to have the whole Florida result overturned, as a consequence. Is this still a possibility?


Tom Carver:

I think that is a really interesting question because Janet Reno, the Attorney General, in the last few days has sent an FBI team down to Florida to investigate this because they have had about four hundred applications from the NAACP, which is a civil rights group in America, saying that blacks in different parts of Florida were excluded from voting or were prevented from voting in certain ways. That was not to the parties but right to the Justice Department - so the FBI is getting involved. They haven't said there is anything criminal at the moment but they are down in Florida looking - the only trouble is they are not going to come to a conclusion before this election plays out. So perhaps in February when George Bush is President we may suddenly discover that a lot of people were unlawfully excluded from their vote.


Nick Grealy, London UK:

Why has the BBC not mentioned in weeks that Gore is almost 350,000 votes ahead in the popular vote? When you consider recent polls the majority seems to be that a President being elected with far fewer votes is patently unfair. However, in the same poll 24 per cent actually think that Bush is ahead in the popular vote. Don't you think that the BBC has a duty to stress how Bush will be President by a technicality?


Tom Carver:

Well it is more than a technicality, it is a constitutional right. It is embedded in the constitution that the president is elected by the Electoral College and not by the popular vote. He is right - it is an extraordinary circumstance to have a man who is probably going to be president, George Bush, who didn't win the majority of votes in the country. That has only happened three times in American history and none of those times was in this century.

It really will be an election to remember and who knows maybe there will be some sort of electoral reform that will come out of it. But you have to remember that 350,000 votes sounds a lot - it is a lot - but you are talking about 100 million people who voted - just 0.3 per cent - that is not much in the scheme of things.


Chris Muir, London:

Bush looks like he has won, through the backing of the courts and the impatience of the US public. But Bush's presidency will surely be tarnished by voting irregularities and allegations that black Floridians were prevented from voting. In short, can Bush survive?


Tom Carver:

Yes, I think he can survive, although that depends on how well he runs his presidency. I think when this is over, there will be a real desire by people to forget about the election in a sense. It will be brought up undoubtedly by Democrats when they want to use it as a weapon to hammer George Bush but I think that even Al Gore has said he will stop talking about a stolen election or an illegitimate election, once George Bush is inaugurated - if he is inaugurated and I think most Americans will want to do that as well.

People are not saying there is a constitutional crisis or anything - they are not panicking about this. Most people seem to be saying " Oh my God, just get on with it. Let's just have Bush - we think he has probably won". So there is not a great hunger for this limbo to continue.


Graham, Scotland:

I have heard it suggested that if the legal wrangle is still going on when the new Congress meets, then the House of Representatives can choose a President and the Senate a Vice-President. I assume that in those circumstances the House would elect Bush and Gore would use his casting vote in the Senate to elect Lieberman. What would the implications be of the President and VP being from different parties?


Tom Carver:

He is right in that the process is as follows: if there is no clear result in the Electoral College it goes to Congress to decide who is the next president and vice-president. The way that happens is that the House of Representatives choose the president and the Senate choose the vice-president. The House of Representatives gets one vote per state, so it is not like all the House of Representative delegates get a vote; it is one vote per state. So Nebraska gets the same as New York and because there is a tiny Republican majority in the House or Representatives they will presumably elect Bush.

As he says, in the Senate at the moment it is a 50 - 50 split in the new Senate. But he wrong is saying that Gore would have the vote because we are talking about the new post-election make up and Gore is not the vice-president post-election. So that really is a conundrum because who then has the casting vote in the 50 - 50 split when the only person who has that vote to cast, is the person that they are casting the vote for! They haven't resolved that and they are just praying that it doesn't come to it.

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