Subj: [UFOpals] WP: "The Vote Is Strange"
Date: 11/8/00 2:43:56 AM Pacific Standard Time

Battleground State: Florida

By Edward Walsh and Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, November 8, 2000 ; Page A31

The state of Florida threw a stunningly close presidential
election into turmoil last night that continued into the early
morning hours of today.

Exactly what went wrong was not clear, but the first warning came
at 9:38 p.m. in a message from the Voter News Service, which
transmits voter exit poll data to news organizations used to
project winners and losers on election night.

"We're canceling the vote in County 16 [Duval County, which
includes Jacksonville]," the message said. "The vote is strange."

At 10:13 p.m., VNS put the vote in the entire state of Florida in
doubt. "We're retracting our call in Florida because we don't
have our previous confidence," it said in a message to news
organizations. Television networks, which had projected Vice
President Gore as the winner in Florida, abruptly reversed
themselves, saying the state was too close to call.

The situation in Florida was complicated by a large number of
absentee ballots in the state and uncertainty over how many of
them had been counted. Republican officials said that about
100,000 more Republicans had requested absentee ballots than had
Democrats. In 1988, Democrat Buddy MacKay was declared the winner
in a Senate race on election night, but when the absentee votes
were counted Republican Connie Mack became the senator.

Sergio Bendixen, a veteran Florida political consultant, said
last night that the initial projections of a Gore victory in
Florida were based on exit polls of voters who cast their ballots
at polling places yesterday. But, Bendixen said, in many Florida
counties, including Miami-Dade County, the first votes counted
are absentee ballots. He said the absentee votes appeared to have
gone strongly for Texas Gov. George W. Bush, calling into
question the projections based on the exit polls and forcing the
television networks to revise their predictions.

There is a strong military element in the absentee vote in
Florida, and Bush and his running mate, former defense secretary
Richard B. Cheney, made the military a major issue in their
campaign and were expected to do well among voters in the

At midnight last night, based on votes then counted, Bendixen
said that he expected Bush's 100,000-vote lead to shrink to about
50,000 as more votes came in from strong Democratic counties.
That would still give Bush about a 1 percent victory in Florida,
he said.

The Florida drama produced a gut-wrenching night for the state's
political operatives.

"We thought we'd wrapped up the state early, but what we didn't
know was how the race would end nationally," Tony Welch,
spokesman for the Florida Democratic Party, said early this
morning. "If Gore did not win Florida but won the nation, we'd
still be smiling. And then everything changed. We went into the
night believing that Florida was a very important state and at
the end of the night Florida is truly the center. This isn't
about other states; this is about Florida."

In the early morning hours, Welch said he still held out hope for
a Gore victory because much of the uncounted vote was in strongly
Democratic areas in the southeast corner of the state.

It remained unclear last night what the VNS reference to a
"strange" vote in Duval County--the first warning that something
might be amiss in the initial projections--was all about. Robert
Phillips, manager of the county elections department, said last
night that there were no unusual developments in the voting
patterns in the county.

All the turmoil in Florida produced an extraordinary bit of
television drama, with four networks abruptly backing off their
projection that Gore would win Florida's crucial 25 electoral
votes. They did so after Bush allowed cameras into the Texas
governor's mansion so he could insist that the Florida contest
was not over.

At 10 p.m., CBS, ABC and CNN all said they were moving Florida
into the undecided category, more than two hours after they had
used exit-poll data to call the state for Gore. NBC followed 15
minutes later.

The networks' flip-flop came about 10 minutes after they aired an
unusual videotape in which Bush, with his father, mother and
wife, challenged the television projections in Florida and
Pennsylvania. "The people actually counting the votes have come
to a different perspective. . . . I'm pretty darned upbeat about
things," said Bush, undoubtedly with an eye on turning out his
supporters in western states.

The network reversal quickly changed the commentary, which had
increasingly been saying it would be very difficult for Bush to
beat Gore after having lost Florida, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

"It's looking better for George Bush than it did a half-hour
ago," said NBC's Tom Brokaw.