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Election Day Diary

Jason Snell (1:39 a.m. PST)

Lots of stuff happened at once.

First, Gore went ahead in the popular vote -- and it appears that regardless of what happens in Florida, Gore will probably win the popular vote. Goodbye, Electoral College!

Second, Bush went ahead by a few thousand in Florida. But with a recount in the offing, it'll be a while before we're sure what's going to happen.

Third, I drew the curtain on this Election Day diary so I could go to sleep. In general, I think the diary went pretty well, don't you? And so to bed.

Steve Lutz (Contributor) (1:24 a.m. PST)

So I'm just sittin' here wonderin'...

As I understand it, the Greater Miami area is, on average, about 6 feet above sea level. Let's just suppose for a moment that, all of a sudden, the massive hole in the ozone layer gets a little bit larger, the polar ice caps melt down another fraction of an inch, and Greater Miami suddenly finds itself named Lake Greater Miami.

The question is, do the votes in that largely liberal area suddenly become invalidated?

My guess is no. If a dead man can be allowed to be elected, surely dead men can be allowed to elect him.

Nonetheless, I'm out of deodorant.

Jason Snell (1:09 a.m. PST)

Best line of the night so far, from CBS' Bob Schieffer: When it comes to network calls of Florida, it's now a 2-out-of-3 falls situation.

Did I say I had a Dewey Defeats Truman vibe, or what? Maybe Brian Williams should have paused and sighed a few more times before calling such a close election so quickly.

Jason Snell (1:04 a.m. PST)

Finally got into the Florida State Department Web site. Bush is listed as leading by 1,210 votes. Holy cow.

David Burkhart (1:02 a.m. PST)

For a political junkie like me, this is Grade A pure heroin.

Steve Lutz (Contributor) (1:01 a.m. PST)


TeeVee decides to do election coverage reluctantly, since the election is only "marginally related" to television.

Turns out television is the whole story. If it weren't for the bumbling antics of the media, I would have gone to bed an hour ago. I would wake up in the morning and know, based on actual election results, the name of the man who will be our next President.

Coincidence? If there's rioting in downtown Nashville tonight, I will disavow all knowledge of Jason Snell.

Jason Snell (12:58 a.m. PST)

Dan Rather has just un-declared Bush as the president -- Florida, for the second time tonight, is back as a toss-up.

He has yet to refer to Florida as a sort of Mexican foodstuff, however. That's something.

This is starting to seem like a Yugoslavian election. Is that Slobodan Milosevic I see crouching behind that ballot box in Dade County?

David Burkhart (12:46 a.m. PST)

Now NBC is showing a blurry close-up of the Florida Secretary of State's website shoing the 600 or so vote margin.

Very weird.

Jason Snell (12:42 a.m. PST)

Chaos reigns. Gore withdraws his concession. The vote in Florida -- is it hundreds apart or thousands apart? Is it locked up or up in the air? And given the closeness of the election, a few hundred points could flip the election for Bush or Gore.

Meanwhile, the nation sleeps, confident that Bush has won... and he has. Or he hasn't. We may erase Dewey Beats Truman before the night is through.

Jason Snell (12:33 a.m. PST)

Mass hysteria. New reports are that the Florida secretary of state says the margin between Gore and Bush is in the hundreds of votes, not the thousands currently being reported.

And now the networks begin to backpedal. And Dave Burkhart says that Greenfield is saying on CNN that he thinks that Gore may win the popular vote now, even if Bush wins the electoral vote... Al Gore has not appeared. George Bush has not appeared. All those confident networks are now frightened. Tom Brokaw is eating a cracker, because he's tired and hungry.

And Thomas Dewey laughs from his perch in limbo.

Jason Snell (11:18 p.m. PST)

CNN and NBC go for Bush in Florida, finally calling the election for Bush. Brian Williams announces it on MSNBC after a huge series of sighs. It's as if NBC is crossing its collective fingers and hoping that it's done the right thing. Moments later, CNN does the same. A big photo of a smiling Bush appears on screens throughout the nation.

"Bush Wins Presidency," CNN says. I, for one, am scared. The Dewey Defeats Truman factor is, in my mind, still high. How can anyone call this election that confidently?

Maybe Jeff Greenfield and Chris Matthews just wanted to go to bed.

David Burkhart (11:15 p.m. PST)

This is a hell of a thing. Right now, Florida--which was called for Gore five hours ago by most networks, then retracted--is the deciding factor in this race.

Or, as Dan Rather put it, "Al Gore's back is to the wall, his shirt-tail is on fire, and the bill collectors are knocking on the door."

Whatever the hell that means.

Steve Lutz (Contributor) (10:45 p.m. PST)

God bless local news coverage.

You probably know me as the guy who doesn't give a rat's ass about the outcome of the Presidential race. You know me as such because I have made every effort to mention that fact during the last two weeks.  Especially when doing so might keep others from expressing their own inane views, which, due solely to the fact that they differ from mine, are wrong.

Nonetheless, even after an undisclosed number of martinis, I have been a seething ball of tension all night. Perhaps I'm anticipating the horror of four years of the robotic monotone that is Al Gore's speaking voice. If I had wanted to deal with that I would have majored in Humanities. In which case I would now be below the subsistence level, and therefore, a Gore supporter. Anyhoo...

A few minutes ago I was watching the local news talking heads bob about in front of a gang of political revelers at "Election Central" here in San Diego. They were discussing in great seriousness the implications of this incredibly close Presidential race. I was curled up in the fetal position on the couch, clutching the stem of my highball glass with white knuckles and waiting for the quiet pop that would indicate that my head had finally exploded.

And suddenly, my angel appeared. From beyond the chattering upper torsos of the news team, a skinny arm arced up from the massed throng, raising aloft a tattered white placard. Scrawled upon it, in beautiful, black, permanent ink, were two delicious, tension-breaking words:

"Gore Farted"

Finally somebody managed to capture the essence of the Democratic process in three simple syllables. It floated there for a few minutes, while the smiling heads continued to talk.  You could hear their voices crack a little when they finally caught a glimpse of the sign on their monitor.

"Gore Farted"

Yes he did, Billy. And Dubyah made a poopie. And as soon as I change out of my wet skivvies, I can sit back and drink the rest of the night away in peace, safe in the knowledge that somebody else out there gets the joke.

Monty Ashley (10:09 p.m. PST)

I absolutely love when it's time for the big colorful state-by-state map of the U.S. and the anchorman says "let's go to the map!"

It makes me think of "Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?" and I start bopping out to the Carmen Sandiego theme song, as sung by Rockapella. I can't transcribe it very well here, but it's loud and clear inside my head.

That's not a very coherent report and I'm sorry. Not very sorry, though, because there's up-tempo a capella music in my head.

Jason Snell (9:26 p.m. PST)

Dan Rather continues his fun. Homespun aphorisms abound. Something strange about Washington State's state motto.

And his obsession with Mexican food continues. In 1992 Texas was the "really big taco," but apparently this year California is a "big burrito."

Is Dan sending me secret messages through my TV? I'm not sure. But I feel like making a run for Taco Bell.

Monty Ashley (7:32 p.m. PST)

Being interviewed by Larry King, Ralph Nader got a big round of applause for saying "the present sovreignty of global corporations."

Now, I may think he's a loon who should get the heck off my television screen as soon as possible, but I have to respect anyone who can get an audience behind a line like that. We haven't had a good surrealist comedian since Ernie Kovacs.

Jason Snell (7:24 p.m. PST)

Dan Rather really thinks Bush is going to win. He just doesn't want to say it.

"Hopes are really waning at the Gore camp," he says.

"Bush is almost going to win. It leans toward Bush. But he's not there yet."

Meanwhile, on NBC, Tim Russert draws madly on a whiteboard with a dry-erase marker. He's more vague, but seems to be leaning toward Gore. Yeah, whatever -- I want to know more about the whiteboard! Tim, Tim, what happened to the fancy computer graphics? The pulsating red and blue states? Instead, we've got scrawled states on a whiteboard in your lap. It's silly.

But, then, so is Dan Rather.

Jason Snell (7:04 p.m. PST)

And then the pollsters slit their wrists.

"We called Florida for Gore, but we take it back! It's too close to call!" All the networks announce it simultaneously. Except NBC -- cocky bastards.


Jason Snell (5:14 p.m. PST)

God bless Dan Rather.

News events like this bring out the best in our favorite anchorman, the only one who has an entire subsection of his personnel file devoted to bizarre incidents involving him.

My favorite Rather election moment: 1992. Clinton-Bush. And as the tally marched westward, Dan intoned: "Now we come to Texas. Electorally speaking, if Texas isn't the whole enchilada, it's at least a very big taco."

This year, it's an enchirito.

Ben Boychuk (4:57 p.m. PST)

I made my decision at 12:55 p.m., Pacific Standard Time.

First I voted. Then I got a haircut.

It was a tough choice -- the lesser of two evils -- but I can live with it.

As it happened, my mom didn't embarass me very much in front of the ladies at the polling place. She made a big show of giving me only one ballot, as if she needed to prove that we're not in the business of voter fraud. I'm not certain the other women were convinced. But I did have a laugh at her expense as she struggled in vain to explain how to sign the roll book to an elderly Armenian lady.

Elderly Armenian Lady: "What am I supposed to do with this box?"
Mom: "You are supposed to sign your name there."
EAL: "What am I supposed to do with this box?"
Mom: "You are supposed to put your address there."
EAL: "But my address is here" (pointing to the printed address next to her printed name on the form)
Mom: "Yes, I know. But you are supposed to sign it there, too."
EAL: "Where?"
Mom: "In this box."

And so on, for about five more minutes. The funny thing, really, was listening to my mother struggle with the poor woman's name. "Are you Val... Vai... haj... uh, ah..."

It took me 45 minutes to drive to my polling place, 10 minutes to park, 5 minutes to wait, 3 minutes in the booth, 10 more minutes to talk to the League of Women voters women ("Did you know my son just got married?" etc.), 5 minutes to drive to the barbershop, 10 minutes to get my hair cut, and 90 minutes to drive back to work.

As my voting record goes, blowing three hours or so of a work day is not a bad investment of time and energy. In 1992, I drove from San Diego to Los Angeles because I forgot to send for an absentee ballot. That turned into a six-hour road trip, due to the double-whammy of rush hour and an accident on the I-5 on the way home. Terrible night all around.

But that doesn't compare to my horrible experience in 1996.

That year, I voted for Bob Dole.

Philip Michaels (4:53 p.m. PST)

The headline in Monday's paper was clear and concise: Election To Go Down To The Wire.

The headline in Tuesday's paper was vaguely similar: Election Still Too Close To Call.

Thank God that while I slept Monday the World Council of Bankers didn't have time to meet in secret and come to a handshake deal that hands the Oval Office over to Lyndon LaRouche.

Because then I would have felt like more of an ass voting Libertarian today.

Lisa Schmeiser (4:51 p.m. PST)

I voted before work and when we walked into a polling place, the first thing I noticed was the big crowd of people hung up at the registrar's table and the empty booths just beyond.

A quick look at the table revealed why: the only people with any civic spirit in Alameda are over the age of seventy. One poor man was having trouble convincing people he was registered. The elderly woman in charge of checking the address rolls made a huge point of drawing her ruler across the page carefully and saying, "You're not listed." Her point might have been better made if the ruler weren't radically diagonal, bisecting half the entries and presenting a text stew that would have disqualified everyone in a five-mile radius.

When it was finally my turn, the elderly gentleman asked me my name. When I replied "Schmeiser," he exchanged looks with Madama Ruler-wielder and promptly seized my voter guide for the correct spelling.

Naturally, my name was misspelled. Oh, the obstacles to democracy!

Mike Barber (Contributor) (6:46 p.m. CST)

I am currently sitting at the center of the storm on this election night-- working at a daily newspaper here in Minnesota. I worked the last election, and it always a privilege and an honor to do so.

Even now, hundreds of people are scurrying about-- looking at photos, writing stories, retooling layouts. Everyone waiting, in eager anticipation, for the most important announcement of the night: when the big spread of gourmet sandwiches arrives.

The staffers have already destroyed the newspaper's complimentary snack table. There's guacamole and onion dip everywhere. People are getting antsy.

Even now, some of our copy editors are having quiet discussions over who should be eaten should the sandwiches not arrive on time.

I'm afraid. I'm very afraid.

Lisa Schmeiser (4:42 p.m. PST)

So I'm at the eye doctor this afternoon, and just as he's strapped me in to some contraption that was clearly acquired through the post-production "A Clockwork Orange" auction, the doctor says, "So I have to ask: did you vote today?"

Thank God I had. Otherwise I might have been blinded.

David Burkhart (4:13 p.m. PST)

CNN is reporting huge turnout in Missouri, and a judge there has just ordered the polls in St. Louis to stay open two hours longer because of the long lines.

I think we should have more dead guys on the ballots across the country.

Ben Boychuk (4:12 p.m. PST)

George Washington was no intellectual -- not that I am comparing the current crop of candidates to Washington. Jackson was cunning but not especially smart. Coolidge was a smart man, but he had W.'s work habits. Harry Truman was had a bit of hayseed in him. Ronald Reagan was regarded as an "amiable bumbler" by the same crowd that has bestowed the same label on Bush.

What about the smart guys? Jefferson was a brilliant thinker but a poor president. Teddy Roosevelt's ideas were fundamentally unsound, as were those of Princeton University President Woodrow Wilson. Jimmy Carter was said to be a genius, too. So much for geniuses.

As much as I admire Nixon -- for his cravenness, mostly -- I'd take a Reagan or, in this case, a Bush, any day.

Monty Ashley (4:05 p.m. PST)

As I write this, there are 47 seconds until the polls close in six states. Now there's 34 seconds.

I know this because CNN has a countdown clock onscreen. I'm all het up with excitement. And here's the result from Florida!

Too close to call.

But here comes Georgia!

Too close to call.

No problem, we've still got Virginia!

Too close to call.

But wait, there's also New Hampshire!

Too close to call.

Meanwhile, Bush wins South Carolina and Gore wins Vermont.

I guess what I'm saying is that if they don't really have anything to say when the countdown clock hits zero, they should not be counting down like it's New Year's Eve.

Monty Ashley (3:20 p.m. PST)

I have now heard the first use of the phrase "Cautiously Optimistic" (Mary Matalin, CNN).

David Burkhart (12:55 p.m. PST)

Phil Donahue was just on CNN screaming--and I mean screaming--at some Liberterian guy who started quoting the Green Party platform. Donahue's a big Nader supporter, and claimed that all the stuff about 100% taxation was a lie, and you could go to votenader.com and see the truth.

So I did, and you can follow a link from http://votenader.org/press.html to see the very platform Donahue was denying.

For those of you that are too young, Donahue started the whole daytime talk show thing, and we have him to blame for Springer, Oprah, O'Donnell and all the rest. I hope I can go another decade without seeing him on TV.

David Burkhart (11:58 a.m. PST)

I'm trapped at work today, far from the TV. This is a terrible fate for a political junkie. I want to be glued to the screen, waiting for Peter Jennings to say "The red dog ran in the moonlight," which will be the code for the exit polls saying Gore is leading in Florida.

Instead, I'm here at work, listening to the the CNN streaming audio feed from their website. I also have my radio here that picks up TV stations, but at this hour it's useless unless I want to listen to Rosie O'Donnell.

Which I most certainly do not.

Gregg Wrenn (11:33 a.m. PST)

I am extremely happy Election Day is here. Not because I'm excited about the candidates -- this year's batch has introduced a brand new linguistic paradox to my vocabulary: vehement apathy. No, I'm dancing in the streets with the knowledge that actors will no longer be making speeches on behalf of politicians.

This trend has gotten so bad that it's even resurrected the carrer of stand-up comedian Elayne Boosler, who has made recent appearances on Larry King Live and Politically Incorrect. Boosler is a staunch Gore supporter although her main campaign tactic seems to be screeching and howling like a banshee and then whining that none of the other guests respects her.

This is a woman who made "Meatballs II." Now we're supposed to trust her judgement of politicians?

If there's anything more annoying than self-righteous actors grandstanding about politics, scientists have yet develop it. Alec Baldwin threated to leave the country if Bush is elected. Maybe he's got room on the boat for Boosler, Rosie O'Donnell and Barbra Streisand.

If so, George W. Bush just got himself another vote.

Philip Michaels (10:58 a.m. PST)

Want to know why I always feel out-of-place and overlooked in these elections? Check out how I distributed my votes when I cast my ballot on this fine, sunny morning in Alameda County.

Libertarian candidates: 2
Democratic candidates: 1
Republican candidates: 1
Green Party candidates: 1

Now I defy any pollster out there reading this to easily categorize what kind of voting block I fall into.

And no, "hopelessly confused" is not a viable category.

Ben Boychuk (10:55 a.m. PST)

I need a haircut. I need to vote. The question is: Vote first, haircut later? Haircut first, then vote? On that question, I am undecided.

As my life has been in a state of upheaval and disarray recently, I neglected to re-register to vote at my new address. So I find myself forced to drive 40 miles to my polling place. To add insult to injury, my mom is working there. Will she embarass me in front of the other ladies from the League of Women Voters? Of course she will. Will she reveal the contents of my secret ballot and expose me as an incorrigible reactionary? Even under pain of state and federal prosecution?

I believe she just might.

Greg Knauss (10:46 a.m. PST)

So how many people casting their lot with Ralph Nader have actually read the Green Party platform, the document of the organization they are trying to win federal matching funds for? Not a lot is my guess, because -- and I say this with all due temperance -- the Greens are insane. Not even Nader signs off on the thing, and with good reason. Some highlights:

30-Hour Work Week: A 6-hour day with no cut in pay for the bottom 80% of the pay scale.

A Proportional, Single-Chamber US Congress: Abolish the disproportional, aristocratic U.S. Senate.

Workplace Democracy: Establish the right of workers at every enterprise over 10 employees to elect supervisors and managers and to determine how to organize work.

Maximum Income: Build into the progressive income tax a 100% tax on all income over ten times the minimum wage.

Democratic Conversion of Big Business: Mandatory break-up and conversion to democratic worker, consumer, and/or public ownership on a human scale of the largest 500 US industrial and commercial corporations...

Philip Michaels (10:30 a.m. PST)

My wife -- adopting a troubling character trait of the man she's cast her vote for -- has embellished her story to make me look like a swine.

I did not say "So it's Harry Browne, baby!" I merely said, "So it's Harry Browne!"

I am content to let God be my judge.

Greg Knauss (10:21 a.m. PST)

My polling place had a "Help Wanted" sign out. "We'll pay you $55 to work today," it said. "We need a clerk."

No word on if you have to be an amiable senior citizen.

Greg Knauss (10:14 a.m. PST)

Are you allowed to drive a car with a political bumper sticker to a polling place? Does that count as electioneering?

Monty Ashley (10:11 a.m. PST)

It's about time for me to go to work, and I have to vote on the way. And I'm dreading it.

Not that I have anything particular against Gore or Bush -- they don't seem any more venal and untrustworthy than any other presidential candidates of my memory. I don't even have anything against the legions of state initiatives I will be expected to have strong opinions on.

The problem will be my boss. He's very interested in how I vote. And he's Canadian.

Last year, I tried explaining to him that the secret ballot is one of this countries most treasured rights, be accurately saw through that as a cover-up for the fact that I didn't actually vote. So this year I've got to come up with some other way to get him off my back.

Since he's my boss, I can't tell him "None o' your business, pal!" And even if I could, I used that line during the budget process. So I'm thinking of making a list of the least-known candidates in each election and claiming them as my picks.

"What, boss? You didn't know there was a Klingon running for Assemblyman this year?"

David Burkhart (9:54 a.m. PST)

I'm amazed how many of the news commentators have fessed up over the last few days about how they fudge the ban on reporting exit poll data before the polls close. They are coming right out and saying "Watch for subtle hints like 'We're seeing a strong Union turnout here at the polls, Bernie', or "Word is that Al Gore has some champagne on ice, Brit.'"

Wink wink.

Lisa Schmeiser (9:50 a.m. PST)

Picture this: it's 6:45 in the morning. I've just peeled about fourteen apples in preparation for the monster batch of world-famous apple crisp I'll be serving at our election party tonight. Well, famous in the world of Lisa. After I slide everything in the oven, I run around the house frantically tidying up. I put Phil's and my voter guides by the door, so we can grab them on the way out. At 7:45, the mocking begins as I'm pulling on my hose.

"You're voting for Gore?" smirks my libertarian husband, waving my voter guide in his hands. "Well, I guess if I were in your shoes --"

"What, if you had a uterus?"

"Yes. If I had a uterus, I could see where you might want to vote for Gore. But I don't have a uterus. So it's Harry Browne, baby!"

I yank on my skirt and begin looking for a clean sweater while the husband sing-songs, "You're voting for Gore" in the background. Finally, I turn around and give him The Look, i.e. the glare that precedes me saying, "You know, we do have two bedrooms and two beds in this house, and I'd be happy to remove myself to one of them lest the heat rolling off my nuclear-level irritation keeps you up at night." It's an empty threat, but it usually gets my point across.

The husband stops his capering and promises, sincerely, to quit making fun of my choice for president. After all, he knows I'm refraining from batting my eyes at him and cooing, "tell me about the rich political legacy of Andre Marrou?"

Chris Rywalt (9:39 a.m. EST)

I'm voting for Ralph Nader. Why? Because I read an interview with him in Rolling Stone and, when asked what the top five items he would work on if he were elected, he listed not one telegenic issue. Guns? Abortion? Social Security? The War on Drugs? Absent.

This is from the article in the September 14, 2000 issue of Rolling Stone:

What are the first five things you would do as president?

First, I would declare a pro-democracy initiative -- that means public financing of election campaigns, urge the states to have same-day registration, make voting day a holiday and a celebration of the democratic process, develop a binding "none of the above" proposal. People could check "none of the above" on their ballots, and if that wins, there would have to be another election. Second, I would push to remove restrictions that hamper workers from forming trade unions in the private sector. Third, I would press for citizen channels on cable and over the air as a condition of broadcast licensing. The people should have their own television channels and their own radio and television networks, because the people own the airwaves. Four, I would announce tough enforcement of consumer health, safety and economic-justice laws throughout the federal government. Crack down on corporate crime, fraud and abuse. And I'd put all federal contracts and grants above $100,000 on the Internet: the coal leasing, the gold leasing, the oil leasing, the NIH giveaways, the defense contracts. Five, I would press immediately for universal health care. Can I list more than five?

Go for it.

I think that all students should learn citizen skills in how to practice democracy, so they can become more powerful in shaping the future of our country instead of having corporations shape its future. They should be taught how to use the Freedom of Information Act, how to do voter profiles of legislators, how to build coalitions, how to do policy statements, how to put on news conferences. I would use the bully pulpit to press for all of that, since it can't be mandated.

David Burkhart (10:39 p.m. PST)

It's getting late in California, and election day is already underway in the East. Toward the end of an amazing Monday Night Football game that that threatens to become a metaphor if the election also ends in a close fluke finish, the first election results came in. The small New Hampshire town of Dixville Notch votes early in a sad effort to be meaningful, with Bush receiving 21 votes, Gore 5. In an equally sad effort to be funny, Dennis Miller takes the obvious joke and says ABC is projecting Bush as the winner.

So now I'm sitting in front of the TV and catching up on the weekend chat shows I recorded over the weekend, to little enlightenment. For the most part, the Democratic pundits think Gore might sqeak out a win, and the Republicans think Bush will win. Unless he doesn't.

But here's the horror scenario from Monday's Inside Politics on CNN. After discussing how the election could be so close that the outcome may not be decided until Western States' absentee ballots are counted days from now, Judy Woodruff said "In which case, we'll all be sitting here, hour after hour, and day after day."

Oh good. Days of Election 2000 coverage.

Well, as long as after the election is over I never have to hear that damned "Who Let the Dogs Out" song again.


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