Election Night
  A Clear Winner
  Manual Tabulation
  Gore's Messages
The False Call
  The Conspiracy
Palm Beach County
(Butterfly Ballot)
     Part 1
     Part 2
     Part 3
     Part 4
     Part 5
     Part 6
     Part 7
     Part 8
  "Recount" Study
  The Basics
  HBO Recount - The Movie
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The False Call

The networks played a significant role in how this election proceeded and aided Gore in his quest to overturn Florida.

Of course, all the major networks desire to be first in declaring a winner.  In 2000 they made their projections primarily based upon data collected from one source, the Voter News Service.  The VNS was a company (a joint venture) that conducted exit polls.  They did not tabulate votes.  Rather, they looked at exit poll data, surveying voters who were leaving polling centers.

Note - On Monday, January 12, 2003, the VNS went out of business, unable to recover from its lack of integrity in the 2000 election.

As it turns out, the VNS was grossly ill-prepared for the election in Florida (This is not my assessment - They admitted this!)  In addition to being understaffed and thereby collecting only a small amount of data, they paid very little attention to the nearly 600,000 absentee voters.  In fact, the VNS said it expected only half as many absentee ballots.

Of Florida's 5,845 precincts, the VNS had workers stationed at only 45, less than one percent.  Out of six million voters, the VNS managed to collect data from just 4,356 people.

As it turned out on election night, the VNS and networks were mysteriously anxious to declare states on behalf of Al Gore.  In Florida, they did so when the polls were not yet closed.

NBC was the first to jump the gun and declare that Al Gore would be the winner of Florida.  They did this with 11 minutes still left on the clock, as voters were still on their way to the voting centers in the Western Panhandle (in the central time zone).  As always on election night, the other networks frenetically jumped on-board as quickly as possible.

Within minutes the message was out - Florida was decided!  Al Gore was the winner!

Along with Florida, the networks also quickly declared that Gore would take Michigan and Pennsylvania, thus winning the "Trifecta" and sticking a dagger in the heart of Bush's campaign.  At this point there were still several hours left on the clock for voters in Western America.  They were now being sent a very powerful message, that Gore was running away with the election.

Anyone who was standing in line by 7:00 pm would have been allowed to vote.  But why would they even bother at this point?  There was no longer any reason to vote for our next President.  It was too late.  The decision had been made.  Gore won Florida and was going to be the next President of the United States.  The networks said so.

The early projection might have cost Bush quite a lot of votes.  The Florida "Panhandle" tends to vote 2 to 1 in favor of Republicans.  There were at least 500,000 registered voters in these precincts.  There are also many military personnel who vote on their way home from work.

Ultimately Bush received enough votes to win.  But this initial perception planted a seed of confusion for millions of people.  Once they were told that Gore won Florida, it would be hard for them to change their minds, to accept that Gore was actually the loser.  This fed the confusion that would follow in Florida and helped Gore implement manual recounts.  It allowed Democrats to say that Gore was the true winner in Florida and that investigations (read that, "manual recounting") should be done.

"Al Gore wins the state of Florida and its 25 electoral votes.  It gives him the first big-state momentum of the evening."
 Peter Jennings of ABC

Exit Polls Versus Tabulations

Al Gore benefited from another powerful and deceitful impression.  That being, exit polls are somehow more accurate than the actual vote tabulations.

For some reason people were more likely to believe broadcasters reporting an erroneous story than they were to believe actual tabulations that were submitted by county officials in Florida.  They still believe this despite the VNS admitting they completely botched the forecast.  

Exit polls are like predicting the outcome of a sports game.  The prediction means absolutely nothing.  It's the actual score of the game that ultimately matters.