Archive for Thursday, November 9, 2000

Fallout from nail-biter still unclear

Professors ponder what will happen when election dust settles in Florida

November 9, 2000

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The Electoral College system is almost certain to face a shakeup, but political experts say it's too early to predict much else about the cliffhanger presidential race riveting the nation.

As the country awaits the final tally that will award Florida's electoral votes and the presidency to Al Gore or George W. Bush, the experts are watching with keen interest a race like few ever seen.

Allan Cigler, Kansas University professor of political science, said the race remains closer than he or anyone else had imagined.

"It's very unsettling for things to be this close and hinge on an irregularity," Cigler said.

Unless a voting irregularity is discovered in Florida, Bush will probably squeeze by Gore for the presidency, Cigler predicted.

Diana Carlin, dean of the Graduate School and International Programs at KU, said that if Bush does win, it would be attributed to superior communication skills.

"Bush was much more consistent with having a message, a theme and bringing everything back to that. Gore didn't have as much of a unifying kind of thematic approach," said Carlin, national director for DebateWatch 2000, a program sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates that tracked reaction to the debates.

But, as absentee ballots from abroad arrive in the next few days, Gore still has a shot at the White House, Cigler said. Many of those votes are thought to be from military personnel that could vote Republican, but they also may be from government employees and students voting for Gore.

If the popular vote goes to Gore, but the electoral vote to Bush, as appears likely, it would diminish Bush's mandate to lead the nation, Cigler said.

"I think it will make governing a little more difficult, a little more contingent," Cigler said. "It does hurt legitimacy when you don't get the most votes, even if you do win the electoral college."

If one candidate wins in the electoral college while another wins the popular vote, debate on replacing the electoral college system is sure to heat up, Cigler said. In the 2004 race, the presidential race may be determined by popular vote or by states splitting their electoral votes proportionately among candidates, he said.

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