Politics

Bush v. Gore and the coming election recounts

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Photo from the Florida recount in 2000 (Image by Flickr user Village Square (cc:by))

This story was originally reported by PRI's The Takeaway. For more, listen to the audio above.

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This year is the 10th anniversary of the bitter Bush v. Gore recount. Americans are still divided by the recount's outcome, according to polls conducted by Nate Persily, a law professor at Columbia University. Republicans still think the outcome was fair, and Democrats still believe it was unfair.

The November 2, 2010, elections could have nearly as much controversy. "There will be as many as a dozen recounts" by Wednesday morning, according to Persily. There is a huge number of House, Senate and Gubernatorial races that are looking to be close this year.

The Senate race in Alaska, for example, "is literally going to keep us up all night," Persily says. Incumbent Senator Lisa Murkowski is running as a write-in candidate. "Under the best of circumstances," Persily says, "it's going to require that all those ballots be counted, and make sure that people are actually voting for Lisa Murkowski when they write her name in." The time zone in Alaska also means that polls close later than they do in the continental 48 states.

Recounts tend to be difficult, according to Persily, because "you really can't predict before an election the types of issues which are going to be central to a recount afterwards." In Florida in 2000, people thought that ballot confusion, not "hanging chad," would be the biggest problem. Persily's advice for election officials is this: "The best thing they can do is have clear rules as to how the recount is going to proceed."

In general, recounts tend to expose a difficult fact, according to Persily: "US democracy is a work in progress. And each election shows the fragile underbelly of our democracy if an election is close. It's with recounts that we realize all the problems that we need to fix."

"The Takeaway" is a national morning news program, delivering the news and analysis you need to catch up, start your day, and prepare for what's ahead. The show is a co-production of WNYC and PRI, in editorial collaboration with the BBC, The New York Times Radio, and WGBH. More at thetakeaway.org