As students kept a close eye on election results on the night of Nov. 7, few ancipated that they would have to wait until Dec. 12 to learn the outcome of the 2000 presidential election.
Many students anxiously turned on their televisions that November evening to watch the results filter in. At first, many television networks projected a seemingly insurmountable lead for Vice President Al Gore after Gore claimed crucial electoral victories in Florida, Michigan and Pennsylvania.
Shortly thereafter, the networks removed Florida from Gore’s electoral tally after the state’s vote count seemed to narrow between the two candidates. After hours of shifting electoral leads, the networks awarded Texas Gov. George W. Bush ’68 Florida’s 25 electoral votes at 2:30 the next morning, giving him more than the required 270 electoral votes needed to win the election.
The networks soon decided that the state was too close to call, however, and the nation still did not have a definitive winner on Nov. 8. At this time Bush had 246 electoral votes and Gore had 262, with Florida and other states’ electoral votes still undecided.
Although some of Yale’s more politically interested students stayed up nearly the entire night, others went to bed not yet knowing who the 43rd president of the United States would be. A select few skipped class to wait out the results in support of their candidate.
“I actually stayed up just late enough to catch the news stations announcing that Bush may not have won the election,” Dan Nugent ’04 said. “Sleep was not a priority at that point; I wanted to know who was going to be the next president.”
In the days that followed, many students organized rallies to show their dissatisfaction with the election ballot-counting process. On Nov. 9 Jenny Drapkin ’02, Puffer Jones ’01, and Timothy Lovelock ’01 led a non-partisan rally on Beinecke Plaza protesting the events in Florida. The Yale College Democrats rallied Nov. 8 to display party unity and support for Gore.
Lovelock is a former photography editor of the Yale Daily News.
As the week dragged on, mandatory recounts in Florida ignited numerous controversies concerning absentee ballots and questionable voting procedures. More than 19,000 Palm Beach County ballots were thrown out because the voter had selected more than one candidate. Many Palm Beach County residents protested because they found the ballots unclear and in many cases accidentally voted for Reform party candidate Pat Buchanan.
Yale students from Florida were bombarded with questions about how they and their parents voted.
“I voted for Gore, but after a while I stopped answering any questions about the election,” said south Florida resident Joe Ross ’04. “People think that I know exactly what happened at home, and I don’t.”
On Nov. 27 Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris certified Bush the winner by a 537 vote margin after a deadline for finishing recounts passed without all tallies being completed. After the results were announced, Gore continued his fight for the presidency in a legal struggle that lasted into December.
After the Florida Supreme Court ruled on Dec. 8 that hand recounts in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties continue, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked the recounts in a historic 5-4 decision, leading to Gore’s concession the next day and a Bush victory. The Court’s decision did not come until Dec. 12, as students prepared for end-of-term exams.
By the time second semester began in January, the controversial election seemed far behind for many students.
“It was definitely intense in the beginning,” Nugent said. “But I think it eventually became anti-climactic for both Republicans and Democrats.”