||November 2, 2004.
The close result in 2000, unprecedented efforts to register and engage
new voters, clear distinctions between the two major party candidates,
and high viewership of the presidential debates all pointed to a record
turnout. By November 2 perhaps 20 percent of the electorate had already
voted during early voting periods or by absentee ballot. On Election
Day itself there were long lines as Americans across the country went to
the polls before heading off to work, during lunch break, or after another
day at the office.
IN ACTION photo.
2, 2004--A long line of people waited to vote Tuesday morning at Ward 1,
Precinct 25 in Washington, DC.
Avoiding Another Florida
of the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) and significant investments
in upgrading voting equipment around the country, concerns about the integrity
of the electoral process remained when Election Day, November 2, 2004 dawned.
Potential trouble spots included electronic
voting systems that lacked a paper trail, provisional
voting ambiguity, and a possible shortage of poll workers. Additionally
in the last month of the campaign, both major parties made numerous allegations
of fraud and intimidation. President Bush's plurality was large enough
that the "margin of litigation" was not crossed, but had the election been
closer there could have easily been another post-election fiasco.
On Election Day and in the
days leading up to it, partisan and independent observers, federal observers,
and international observers of varying stripes mobilized to ensured that
voters' rights were protected and their intentions heard:
Voter Protection Program to "deploy an army of lawyers, organizers,
and advocates across the country to protect the right of every citizen
to vote and have their vote counted." The prospect of thousands of
lawyers on the ground created the possibility of mischief; indeed Republicans
described this as "the Democrats'
Election Day litigation strategy," designed, they say, to "create a
sense of chaos."
Republicans likewise plan
to station poll monitors "in precincts across the nation to ensure that
all eligible voters can participate without harassment or intimidation."
According to an RNC statement, "These volunteers will help to accomplish
our goals of preventing eligible voters from being disenfranchised, making
sure the law is followed and ensuring a transparent process with an accurate
vote tabulation." Democrats and their allies have pointed out that
Republican monitors often seem disproportionately concentrated in African
The liberal group People
for the American Way spearheaded an Election
Protection program which included "on-site poll monitoring and same-day
As it has since passage of
the Voting Rights Act, the U.S.
Department of Justice had observers and monitors around the country.
Over 1,000 people were to be deployed to 25 states.
In at least one state, state
employees facilitated the voting process; Pennsylvania Secretary of the
Commonwealth Pedro A. Cortés announced an Election Day Task Force
wherein, "The Department will deploy at least one Commonwealth employee
to every county election office on Election Day to serve as a liaison between
the county boards of elections and the Department of State."
observers included an election observation mission from the Organization
for Security and Cooperation in Europe's (OSCE) Office for Democratic
Institutions and Human Rights (here at the invitation of the U.S. Department
of State) and a group organized by San Francisco-based Global Exchange.
Election Night: Unofficial Results,
Election night coverage
and the multi-page spreads in the newspaper the next morning are the culmination
of months of preparation and planning.
One key component of election
coverage is exit polls, which are based on surveys of voters in
randomly selected precincts as they leave polling places. Exit polls
provide a window on the concerns of voters and useful information on variations
in voting behavior by gender, race, age, education, income and other factors.
In 2000 exit polling had
been done by entity called Voter News Service (VNS). AP and the networks
and formed VNS, then known as Voter Research and Surveys (VRS), following
the 1988 campaign. VNS and the networks came under considerable criticism2
for their performance on Election Night 2000 as they first called the election
for George W. Bush and then retracted the call. Then
in November 2002 VNS's new and updated system failed to produce usable
results. In January 2003 the partners disbanded VNS.
The successor to VNS was
the National Election Pool, a cooperative formed by ABC News, Associated
Press, CBS News, Cable News Network, Fox News and NBC News.
In 2004, a partnership of Mitofsky
International and Edison Media Research [Mitofsky
International-Warren Mitofsky; Edison
Media Research-Joe Lenski] did exit polling for the National Election
Pool. There were 1,480 exit poll locations and results were obtained
from 1,469 of them. The 2004 exit polls were not without fault, however.
Results of early exit polls, although not formally reported, became known
and appeared favorable to the Kerry campaign, raising false hopes among
Democrats and unnecessary worries among Republicans. Some analyses
sought to tie the discrepancy to use of particular types of voting machines.
In a 77-page evaluation
released in January 2005, the exit poll team attributed the "sizeable overstatement
of the estimated percentage of the vote for John Kerry" in significant
measure to "differential non-responses by Republican vs. Democrat voters."
However, a number of statisticians challenged
the Edison/Mitofsky report.
A second important element
of election night coverage is the collection, tabulation and distribution
election night vote results for presidential, Senate, House and gubernatorial
races. In 2000 this function was also fulfilled by VNS (in the past
a separate entity called News Election Service did this work). VNS
worked with election officials in every county in the country to gather
these results. On election night, stringers and reporters in tens
of thousands of precincts around the country called in reports to VNS,
which then processed and transmitted the information.
For news organizations, when
everything works election night is as good as it gets, a chance to show
what they can do. Anchors man elaborate sets, correspondents around
the country file reports, and, as the evening progresses, states are called
one way or another and the map begins to fill in with red and blue.
The Kerry campaign delayed
conceding the race on Tuesday night, placing faint hopes on provisional
ballots in Ohio. By Wednesday the outcome could no longer be
denied; Senator Kerry called President Bush to concede and then delivered
speech. Bush, re-elected with a record number of votes, delivered
speech to jubilant supporters.
Some citizens, however,
thought Kerry acted too quickly in conceding the race. Discussion
and irregularities permeated the blogosphere in the days following
the election. Although Bush's victory was not challenged, a number
of investigations were begun.
Gastner, Cosma Shalizi, Mark Newman at the University of Michigan
Robert Vanderbei - "Purple America"
Margin in Percent
The Morning After...What Does It Mean?
The days after the election
are peak season for pundits as they assess, analyze, discuss and debate
the meaning of the results. Various interest groups offer their own
post-election assessments, often using the opportunity to point to the
impact their constituency had on the outcome or to launch some barbs at
their opponents. [The
Morning After Page]
Election Day: Take 2...The Electoral
As you will recall from
high school, the president is not selected by direct popular vote, but
by intermediaries known as electors. The electoral system is outlined in
the Twelfth Amendment to the Constitution, adopted in 1804 (this significantly
modified the original provisions contained in Article II). Each state has
a number of electors equal to its number of congressmen and Senators. The
District of Columbia has three electors, bringing the total to 538. Most
states use a winner-take-all rule; all the state's electors go to the winner
of the popular vote in the state.
Electors are generally party
activists. Some months before the election each party puts together a slate
of electors, chosen by congressional district with the exception of the
two at-large Senate slots. If the party's presidential candidate wins the
popular vote in the state on Election Day, its electors meet in the state
capitol on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December 2004.
If not they stay home.
Accordingly in mid-December
ceremonies at the state capitols and in the District of Columbia, electors
met and signed the certificate of vote--actually they signed several copies
of the document so there were back-ups. There are separate votes
for president and for vice president. In Minnesota one elector managed
to vote for John Edwards for president, apparently by error, and in New
York the certificates read John L. Kerry and had to be later corrected,
but otherwise all went as planned. Each state sent one copy of the
certificate of vote to the Office of the President of the United States
On January 6th, 2005 in a
special joint session of Congress these envelopes wre opened and tallied.
Normally this would be a pro forma exercise. Certification of the
state results proceeded alphabetically until the Ohio votes were announced.
At that point Rep. Stephanie Tubbs-Jones (D-OH), supported by Sen. Barbara
Boxer (D-CA), announced a challenge. Debate followed, but the election
of President Bush and Vice President Cheney was finally and officially
College, Annapolis, MD (Dec. 13, 2004)]
Jan. 6, 2005--Rep. Stephanie
Tubbs-Jones (D-OH) raises a challenge.
of the Results in Joint Session of Congress (Jan. 6, 2005)]
Voter Turnout in Recent Years
In 1996 voter turnout reached
its nadir. The election of 2000 showed, that each and every vote
is critical. 2004 saw the highest turnout since 1968.
Voter Turnout in Recent
Source: Committee for the Study
of the American Electorate.
Note that prior to the 2004
election CSAE had used Voting Age Population rather than
Eligible Citizens so that
in 2000 for example it had reported turnout as 51.2% of VAP.
Resources and Useful Links
-Ohio State University Moritz
College of Law's Election
-Spencer Overton, "Second
Class Votes: Why a Voter Should Cast a Provisional Ballot Only as a Last
Resort." NAACP National Voter Fund (Oct. 28, 2004).
-U.S. Government Accountability
Office (GAO) report: "Department of Justice's Activities to Address Past
Election-Related Voting Irregularities" [GAO-04-1041R],
September 14, 2004 (released October 15, 2004).
a report "Election
Preview 2004: What's Changed, What Hasn't and Why?" (Oct. 2004)
-The U.S. Commission on Civil
Rights held several "Is America Ready to Vote?" briefings on election reform
and voting integrity (briefing
paper; April 9,
15, Sept. 17).
-U.S. Election Assistance
Commission Chairman DeForest B. Soaries Jr.'s July 13, 2004 statement
concerning the status of the November presidential election.
CalTech/MIT Voting Technology
Machines and the Underestimate of the Bush Vote." (Nov. 11, 2004).
of Edison/Mitofsky Election System 2004" prepared by Edison Media Research
and Mitofsky International for the National Election Pool (NEP) (released
January 19, 2005).
US Count Votes. "Response
to Edison/Mitofsky Election System 2004 Report." (Jan. 31, 2005)
College (National Archives site)
Proposing That the Electoral College Be Abolished
for True Democracy (seeks abolition of Electoral College)
-In Colorado voters
36, the Electoral Reform Initiative, which appeared on the November
2 ballot. If approved by voters it would have, effective this election,
changed the way Colorado allocated its electoral votes so they were divided
based on the popular vote rather than winner-take-all.
Election Inequality: The Electoral College in the 21st Century." (Feb.
Election Studies NES
"Guide to Public Opinion and Electoral Behavior"
edition of this page
and 1996 Maps and Results
Election Night Coverage: What Went Wrong
House Subcommittee on Telecommunications, Trade & Consumer Protection
(Commerce), chaired by Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-LA), held hearings on the effects
of the networks' election night projections on Feb. 14, 2001.
-CNN commissioned an independent
review panel which produced a report [Joan
Konner, James Risser, and Ben Wattenberg. "Television's Performance
on Election Night 2000: A Report for CNN," Jan. 29, 2001] (PDF format),
and it is instituting new
policies for election night coverage.
Antitrust Institute Calls for Break Up of VNS (11/27/00)
Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005
Eric M. Appleman/Democracy in Action.