I had an overnight job during the 2000 election. Upon getting off work on Tuesday morning, I went down to Mayne to vote and then drove back to my apartment to get my sleep. I was living with Dennis and Karl at the time and in the same complex as my former college roommate Hubert. I don’t know what possessed us to decide to watch the results roll in together, but we did. Between the four of us, we’d voted four different ways: One for Bush, one for Gore, one for Nader, and one for Harry Browne. With Nader and Browne obviously not going to win, it was 2-to-2 in who was rooting for Bush and who was rooting for Gore. It was… contentious. They’d already started calling states by the time I got back to the apartment and it was not looking good for Bush. They’d called the states that Gore was supposed to win, hadn’t called what should have been easy Bush states (Georgia and Ohio, which at the time leaned fairly Republican), and Florida was looking good for Gore (though they hadn’t called it yet).

It was about the time that Hubert said “{expletive] you! {expletive} all of you!” and left in a huff when they called one of the states that I decided that I wanted to be somewhere else. That was fine because I was invited to a Defeat Party for one of the local candidates, Hal Barraby. They didn’t call it a Defeat Party, but it was pretty obvious that he was going to be defeated so I called it that. Barraby was a Republican congressional candidate running in a majority-Democratic district that the Republicans never stopped believing that they could pick up. Whatever chance the candidate had went down in flames when it was discovered that he hadn’t paid child support in five years and owed upwards of $50k to his ex-wife and it was widely speculated that he’d spent more than that amount taking her to court to get out of paying. He was really a prick. I’d done some work for his campaign early on partly because I thought his opponent was a fraud but mostly because the daughter of his campaign manager was hot and seemed like she might be interested. But hey, it was free food and I somewhat enjoyed the prospect of watching Barraby even if it meant that the incumbent would win.

By the time I got there they had called Florida for Gore. Along with the returns coming back against Barraby, had sucked a lot of the wind out of the room. The Texas Governor was on television flat-out saying that the media was wrong and that he was going to win Florida. The room that he was talking in, like the one I was watching, seemed pretty stale. About half the people at Barraby Central were expressing anger at Bush’s campaign for the apparent coming loss, much of which had been attributed to the late revelation that he had gotten a DUI in Maine that he hadn’t come clean about. The other half, though, believed Bush and loudly proclaimed that the media wanted to “give it” to Gore. I thought the latter group was ridiculous. The media never gets that sort of thing wrong. Obviously, if they called it for Gore, Gore was going to win. Duh.

I was still at the Barraby HQ, eating dinner with the campaign manager’s daughter, when they reverse-called Florida. I was pretty stunned, of course, and I was suddenly looking at the possibility for better or worse that Bush might win. I wondered what Hubert and Karl, who had gotten into the tussle earlier that lead to the expletives, were thinking. I had throughout the night been trying not to think of anything at all to avoid the emotional roller coaster of the state-by-state rollout of being called. I wanted to be dispassionate so that I could appreciate the first close election that I’d participated in. I had the day before thought that Bush was going to win, but I’d woken up that morning with the odd sensation that it was probably Gore’s. I didn’t realize at the time, of course, that I could have been right both times.

I had to leave Barraby HQ and go to work. I was working an overnight job at the time. I’d managed to sneak an old black and white television into work with me and watched the reports roll in. When enough states were declared that Bush could no longer win by getting all of the undecided states (which, at the time, I think were Oregon, New Mexico, Iowa, and New Hampshire) except Florida, I started running some numbers through Excel. Bush’s lead in the vote count was pretty substantial by that point, but Gore was starting to chip away at it. So I started filling in the size of the counties that were still counting, ran the numbers assuming that they continued to be counted as they were counted (in other words, if Gore had a 1,700 vote edge with 50% counted, I gave him a 3,400 vote edge) and determined that unless something changed, Gore was going pull it off!

Then, suddenly, the media called it for Bush. I was astonished. Sure my numbers could be wrong since they were entirely speculative, but surely they left enough room for uncertainty that everyone would hold off declaring a winner. Right? Apparently wrong. Forgetting the lesson that I had learned only a few hours before, I assumed that the media simply knew something that I didn’t and that of course they were right and I was wrong. After all, they’re the professionals, right?

I got a worried IM from my Republican brother about the tallies that were continuing to narrow the race. I took a look at my numbers again and found that they had actually underestimated Gore’s percentage of the vote in the counties whose counts had since become complete. However, towards the end there was a levelling off and Bush managed to hold on to the lead. Gore’s campaign announced that the campaign was not over and of course it was another five weeks before it was all decided.


In the final month running up to the election, I came to the conclusion that Kerry was probably going to win. The polls gave a very slight edge to Bush, but there is usually a last-minute push to either the challenger or the candidate that’s running behind and I thought that would put Kerry over the top. But when I woke up that morning, I suddenly had a feeling that Bush was going to do rather well. During my lunch break I drove my car to the nearest park and listened to news radio, which were hinting that the exit polls suggested that we were about to get a new president. Rush Limbaugh was pleading to Republicans not to give up hope, which seemed to seal the deal.

On my drive home, the longest train in the history of mankind was rolling passed and cost me ten minutes. This was bothering me because (a) I forgot to check what time the polls closed and (b) though I had an address to the polling location, I hadn’t been there and didn’t know how easy or difficult it would be to find. Deseret was almost certainly going to go to Bush (it’s no coincidence that the three states with the largest per-capita Mormon population are the three reddest states in the country), but I believe in voting as a civic duty and it’s one I take seriously even if I know my vote won’t make a difference. I actually found the polling place easily enough and voted. It was the first time I’d ever voted outside of Colosse County. In Colosse County there are something like 300 elected judges with 150 or so up for election every cycle. Seeing a ballot with no more than eight choices on it was really quite a shock to the system.

I had a problem after the election that I had nowhere to go watch the results. I didn’t have a television at the time that got any reception. I had a friend that offered to let me come over and watch it at his place, but I had the feeling that I would pretty much have to explain everything to him and being stoned as he always was, I knew that would be a challenge. I wasn’t entirely in the mood for it. So I decided to try what I would sometimes do when there was a big game on, I went to a bar. Of all the bars I could have chosen in the city of Zarahemla, I happened to choose the one that was the headquarters of the Beck County Democratic Party. There was an extremely uncomfortable feeling while I was there. A sort of desperation in their voices that masking as certainty that they were going to win. I remember one guy going over all of the states that Kerry could lose and still win the election.

Unlike four years earlier at the Barraby Bash, there were no cute campaign manager’s daughters to keep me around (oh yeah, and I was married), so I decided to to leave. I got a call from Clancy who said that she was watching the returns in the living room of our landlords, the Cranstons. So I drove back and joined Mr and Mrs Cranston as well as Clancy and we watched the results from their living room. They were goodstanding Mormons and die-hard Republicans and threatened to move to Canada if Kerry won. It was the first time I’d ever heard that particular threat.

It seemed pretty obvious late in the evening that Bush was going to win and that they were avoiding calling Ohio primarily to avoid the embarrassment of Florida 2000. Then a couple of the networks gave in and called the state. Kerry declined to concede that night, which I thought to myself was probably the right decision, but then conceded the next day when they went over the data and discerned that there weren’t enough recounts in the world to turn it around, which I thought to myself was also probably the right decision.



I have no idea what I’m going to do on Tuesday. Since I live in Pacific Time and it’s not remotely worth leaving from 3-5pm, that means that by the time I get home it’ll probably be 10:30 eastern time and the election may be over particularly if the eastern red states on the bubble go for Obama. I kind of don’t want to find out after-the-fact if we’ve elected our first black president. So I could leave early, but I was thinking about voting in the morning. Maybe I should take a half-day, leave at noon, vote, then blop down in front of the television and watch the results roll in?

Anyhow, what do y’all plan do to? How did you spend the elections in 2000 and 2004? Feel free to toss in their who you want(ed) to win, but try to avoid turning this into a political discussion since goodness knows there are enough of those to be had around here. The best way to do that is to remember that people that disagree with you read and comment here and try not to say anything that they’re going to feel the need to “set the record straight” on. As obvious as your choice is/was to you, it’s not obvious to everybody and the people that it is not obvious to are not stupid or evil.

-{This post was modified because the previous contents could not have occurred as I recalled them occurring. Thanks to Brandon Berg for pointing this out.}-

Category: Statehouse

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3 Responses to Elections 2000 and 2004

  1. Peter says:

    Polls open at 6 am so I’ll probably vote before work. If past elections are any guide, the lines might be fairly long. That’s not because there’s such a huge volume of people who show up to vote, there being many polling places in the area, but because the average age of poll workers seems to be somewhere north of 85 and, inevitably, they work at a leisurely pace.

  2. Webmaster says:

    Well, I already voted. We have a new person moving in to the house, so there will probably be something going on with that.

    Honestly, I’m looking at this election as a train wreck no matter who is elected; you can expect tons of scrutiny on states with a known, possibly historic vote-fraudulent history (Illinois/Chicago come readily to mind). You can expect a TON of media coverage concerning whether the vote will come down like the polling (which has obvious deficiencies).

    And honestly, I’m getting real tired of it now, to the point where I only vaguely care. Obama wins, bend over. McCain wins… bend over just not quite as far. I didn’t vote for either of them and I reserve the right to complain about the policies of whichever of them eventually becomes Prez44.

    Oh, and for posterity’s sake… when I voted the very few parts of my ballot I was qualified for under Colosse’s voter-disenfranchisement system, I voted for Barr/Root.

  3. Abel says:

    I really think you should open up your comments on the election post you closed them off and moderate them — letting people give their Electoral College/popular vote prediction.

    Here’s mine: Obama receives 49% of the popular vote and 282 electoral votes. McCain gets 48% of the popular vote and 256 electoral votes. Only five states change their vote from 2004: Virginia, Colorado, Iowa, and New Mexico go for Obama. New Hampshire goes for McCain.

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