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Wednesday, 15 November, 2000, 16:20 GMT
Philip Davies answered your questions
Philip Davies, Professor of American Studies at Britain's DeMontfort University, joined us for a live chat and answered your questions on the election cliffhanger in the US.
But in order to do so he has to resign as speaker and resign from Congress, which would be a big sacrifice. If the Speaker does not take the office, the president pro tempori of the Senate becomes the acting president, although he would also have to resign his Senate position.
Currently that person is Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina who is about 97 years old and looking forward to becoming a centenarian senator.
Nonetheless, it is quite true that this particular election is likely to concentrate people's minds. We do have to keep in mind though, that the mere effort of counting one hundred million votes or more would still be very considerable and in a national election where only one hundred thousand votes or so divided the contestants there might be even more confusion over recounts around the country.
One of the advantages of the Electoral College has been it identifies where particular problems lie and concentrates the remedies in those regions.
This is not done on a PR system however, but it is done by dividing those states into their Congressional constituencies for the sake of the presidential election.
If the system was changed so that Electoral College votes of other states were divided between candidates, it might also mean that the requirement of an absolute majority of Electoral College votes would have to be revisited since without the block votes of states it may be more difficult to establish an absolute majority.
Therefore if the hand recount is only held in counties that are dominated by Democratic voters then it is likely to identify more unclear votes for the Democrats than for Republican candidates. So only with a full recount by hand of all areas, including Republican favouring areas, would one find all of the unclear votes.
The assumption has been that certainly errors happen in elections but they happen fairly evenly to each side and therefore one can still rely on the machine counted vote. It is only when the margin gets so close, as it is this time, that the natural rough patches in a huge democracy come under such close scrutiny.
Quite clearly, neither side wants their ox gored and so there is a good deal of partisanship in the arguments they are finding. But nonetheless the argument that mistakes are random and yet searching for them in one place means that the corrections are not random holds some credibility.
Bob Jones, UK:
But the suggestion seems to be that no figure for these will be issued until after the final date for the arrival of postal votes which is November 17th.
D Marchant, Honduras:
Sean McGill, UK:
Nonetheless, political leaders in the United States very often reach out in a bi-partisan fashion even when not pressured by a election of this kind and many US citizens do not particularly see themselves as partisan either. Therefore there is a bedrock of political cohesion on which the new president will be able to build.
When we look back, there are a couple of occasions when effectively disputed presidential elections have taken place and yet the presidents who served have managed to do so with the support of that public.
I think it will make the new president vulnerable to a particularly strong electoral challenge in 2004. However, we do have to remember also that a president like John Kennedy, who won by a slim margin, still managed to be a very strong president.
Marie Tims, England:
It is not clear from research whether early announcements have a very strong effect on West Coast voting, but it is certainly true that voters in California say, are hearing the results from much of the country two or three hours before their own polls close. So it is fair to argue that they are voting in a different context to the rest of their citizens.
Former President Gerald Ford and others have suggested that the presidential voting period be extended to 24 hours with the same closing time across the whole of the United States thereby preventing this problem, but that reform has not met with congressional support.
All of these issue put pressure on those organising the election to try to come to a firm conclusion quickly and therefore as non-disruptively as possible.
There is a tremendous tendency in America to rally in support of the country when it is threatened and continuing bitter dispute would be threatening.
So while I am sure that many people are going to be upset whoever wins, I rather feel that the majority will be almost looking for an excuse to smooth things over and that therefore they will react positively to any attempts by the new president to act in a generous and inclusive fashion. Having said all that, you are quite right that it does depend on the quality of whoever is elected to be able to carry this off.
It would be very difficult for Clinton to become involved without it being seen as a move on behalf of the Democratic candidate.
This also means that if Nader had not been on the ballot in New Hampshire, Gore would probably have taken that state and other states which are still potentially marginal might have slipped more firmly into the Gore column.
Nonetheless, looking at the Palm Beach County ballot, you will notice that ten parties are represented, including the Socialist Party, the Socialist Worker's Party and the Worker's World Party. If any of these had not been on the ballot, given the small margin, that might have been enough to make the difference for Gore also.
Florida makes it quite easy for minor parties to get on the ballot and these three small Left-wing parties only managed to get on the ballot together in two other states. Therefore Florida gave the opportunity for small parties of all political stripes to present themselves to the public.
I have no doubt that Nader and the Green Party, as the largest of the minor parties, and as one almost certainly taking most of its vote from potential Gore voters, will be the one that is remembered in the textbooks. But when things are this close, it is impossible to identify a single cause of the result.
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