Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump was asked last night by debate moderator Chris Wallace whether he would accept the results of the coming election should his rival, Hillary Clinton, win. “I will look at it at the time,” Trump said. He charged that the media is biased against him and that there are “millions of people registered to vote that shouldn’t be registered to vote.” When Wallace asked whether Trump could commit to the principle that losers concede to winners, Trump replied, “I'll tell you at the time...I'll keep you in suspense, okay?”
 
There is precedent for presidential candidates refusing to accept the results of an election. In 2000, that is what Vice President Al Gore did when he faced Texas Gov. George W. Bush.
 
Gore. After having lost the election, Gore spoke at the White House and described why he refused to concede: "The effort that I have underway is simply to make sure that all of the votes are counted, and when the issues that are now being considered in the Florida Supreme Court are decided, that will be an important point. But I don't want to speculate what the court will do."
 
Gore was still optimistic, even after losing in court several times. He said, "I don't really feel" that the odds were stacked against him -- the "underdog." He went on to claim that some voters were not afforded equal access to the polls. He claimed to have had regular contact with black activists Jesse Jackson and Julian Bond to discuss alleged voter suppression. Mentioning the media’s focus on alleged voter suppression, especially among blacks, Gore said, "I am very troubled by a lot of the stories that have been reported."  He added, “Whenever you have allegations of those kind, that is a matter the entire country ought to take seriously."
 
There was a chorus of commentary and criticisms among members of liberal media over questions about the balloting in four Florida counties that turned out to be crucial in George W. Bush’s eventual Electoral College victory. For example, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman -- a sharp critic of Bush -- wrote in January 2009, “'Most Democrats feel, with justification, that we're facing a national crisis—that the right, ruthlessly exploiting 9/11, is making a grab for total political dominance.” Krugman was concerned that Republicans might actually win the presidency and Congress. Later, in 2007, leftist writer Michael Parenti accused Gov. Jeb Bush of sending state troopers to search voter's vehicles in an effort to deter them from going to the polls, while he also said that some precincts demanded two forms of I.D. from voters when only one was required. In his article, entitled "The Stolen Presidential Elections," gadfly Parenti wrote that Republicans allegedly assailed the canvassing board in Dale County FL, punched and kicked an official, creating a "climate of intimidation" that brought about calling the election there for Bush.
 
The Florida election recount of 2000 came about because of questions that arose over the vote count in four counties in the Sunshine State. On November 7, 2000, national television networks called Florida for Vice President Al Gore, having based themselves on information obtained from the Voter News Service that was based on early result tallies and exit polling. The result reported by the networks came in the hour after polls closed in the eastern peninsula (which is in the Eastern time zone) but before they had closed in the heavily Republican counties of the western panhandle (which is in the Central time zone). 
 
It was after the panhandled polls closed that the networks reversed the call and attributed the election George W. Bush, while also retracting the earlier call and saying that Florida was “too close” to call. Faced with the results, Gore phoned Bush and conceded the election. But he later retracted the concession when it became clear just how close the election was. While Bush won the vote count on election night by 1,784 votes, such a small margin of victory meant that the results produced an automatic recount, according to Florida statute. Once it was reported that the ballots in Florida would determine the number of Electoral Colleges votes cast and thus the election, attention on the part of the media and Democrats was keen.
 
Charges emerged that the style of the ballots used in some counties (the ‘butterfly’ ballot of Palm Beach), and other irregularities, favored Bush. Progressives argued that the practice of purging voter registration rolls effectively disenfranchised 54,000 mostly black voters. It was presumed by many that if they had been able to vote, they would have voted for the Democratic ticket. A lawsuit that was filed by the NAACP, which argued that Florida had violated the Equal Protection clause of the Constitution and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The Justice Department determined that there was no merit to the charge.
 
The dispute between Bush and Gore went to the Florida Supreme Court, which ordered a recount. A month after the election, Gore campaign chairman William Daley said that the Florida Supreme Court ruling was “an important victory for what has been Al Gore and Joe Lieberman's basic principle since Election Day, and that is a full and a fair count of all the votes. This decision is not just a victory for Al Gore and his millions of supporters. It is a victory for fairness and accountability and our democracy itself.” He said furthermore, “All of these matters should be resolved by Florida's judiciary, not by the politicians. Al Gore and Joe Lieberman pledge to respect the results of this court-supervised vote counting. We urge everyone to respect the will of Florida's voters and honor the results of the count.” At the time Daley expressed confidence that the Florida Supreme Court decision would withstand an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
 
The U.S. Supreme Court, in a highly controversial decision along party lines, ruled that Florida’s plan for recounting may have been in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The high court ordered a stop to the recount, allowing Florida to certify the vote, and thus putting Bush in the lead. The Supreme Court said that its judgement in Bush v. Gore should not set precedent but should be “limited to the present circumstances. Gore said he disagreed with the finding, but ultimately conceded nonetheless.
 
George W. Bush was declared the winner over Vice President Al Gore by 537 votes in Florida, thus capturing enough Electoral College votes to win the election. The 2000 presidential election was the fourth election in American history and the first in 112 years in which the eventual winner failed to win the popular vote (after the elections of 1824, 1876, and 1888).
 
Bush was inaugurated in January 2001.   
 
Even so, the events of the 2000 election are continually discussed in the media. Both George W. Bush, and then-Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida, have been accused of acts ranging from intimidation of voters, illegal purging of voter rolls, and other nefarious activities. Of late, there are some progressive media that suggest that Florida is seeking to disenfranchise Latino voters in the state in a fashion reminiscent of the alleged suppression of black voters in 2000. 
 
The Democrats and Gore have been questioned, however, over allegations that overseas military voters were suppressed. While Democrats bewailed spoiled ballots and demanding that they be counted, U.S. military personnel were complaining that their absentee ballots were not being counted. The U.S. Navy admitted several days after the election that bundles of completed ballots had been left behind on three vessels stationed in the Persian Gulf. One of those ships was the USS Cole, which suffered a deadly terrorist attack that year in Yemen. 
 
There were critics at the time who suggested that the Clinton administration may have purposely delayed sending absentee ballots to military personnel overseas under the assumption that many of them would vote Republican. A five-page memo written by attorney Mark Herron, who had been hired just after the election by the Gore campaign, added fuel to speculation. In Duval County, lawyers for the Democratic Party descended on the elections office just days after the election to disqualify as many overseas absentee ballots as possible: 618 of 3500 statewide. Following the instructions on Herron’s memo, according to reporter Bill Sammon of Fox News, the five lawyers at the Duval County elections office “objected on every single possible ground they could, no matter how spurious.” A Republican lawyer, Tom Bishop, told Sammon, “It was so bad that there was rolling of the eyes by even some of the Democrats there who were watching their lawyers work.”



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Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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