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Election 2000 in brief

By Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 8, 2000

Weather impedes some voters out West

Up to a foot of snow prevented poll workers from getting to their posts Tuesday in part of New Mexico, and snow and ice slowed the trip to the polls on the northern Plains.

One storm blew through the southern Rockies and High Plains of New Mexico, cutting visibility to zero in places.

"It's terrible; it is very bad," said Sam Chavez, elections clerk in Lincoln County in south-central New Mexico.

Two Lincoln County election precincts had no power. Voting machines had backup batteries, but poll workers "had to get out their lighters" to see, Chavez said.

Some poll workers didn't even reach their posts.

"They can't get out, especially in Ruidoso, where they had 12 inches," Chavez said.

However, nearly a quarter of Lincoln County's 13,000 registered voters had already voted by absentee or early balloting.

A second storm roared across the northern Plains, and the North Dakota Highway Patrol advised no travel at all in three western counties. Nine inches of snow had collected by late morning at Williston, and wind blew at up to 39 mph.

On the Web

GOP: An Internet site run by the Republican National Committee was temporarily taken down after it was defaced in the final hours of the presidential campaign.

By Tuesday afternoon, the Web site -- -- was up and running again. The RNC had taken down the Web page late Monday after discovering it had been replaced with a text message urging visitors to vote for Vice President Al Gore. It also contained a link to Gore's campaign Web site.

The Democratic National Committee denied any connection to the incident and reported its own computer problems. The committee said outside intruders tried to gain access to its systems Monday night, forcing the DNC's external e-mail system to shut down. The server was running again Tuesday, a spokesman said.

VOTE AUCTION: A Web site that purported to buy and sell votes in the presidential election came clean Tuesday and said it was all a piece of political satire.

The admission came after an Illinois judge ordered the site to shut down. A Massachusetts judge had also ordered that it stop offering votes in that state for sale. In addition, the site,, prompted investigations by California and Nebraska officials.

State and federal laws prohibit buying and selling votes.

The site's owner, Hans Bernhard of Vienna, and fellow operators issued a statement on Election Day: "It will be obvious, even to the legal folk, that there are people out there buying and selling votes, but that it is not us. We just gave you the showcase. The real dealers do their businesses quite openly in Washington. Vive la difference!"

VOTE SWAP: A federal judge refused to stop state officials from cracking down on California-based Web sites that let users in one state trade their vote for president to someone in another state.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California had sought to get a temporary restraining order, arguing Secretary of State Bill Jones' actions were an unconstitutional restriction of free speech.

U.S. District Judge Robert Kelleher denied the request in a ruling issued Monday night.

The Web sites sought to have Green Party candidate Ralph Nader supporters cast their votes for Vice President Al Gore in states where Tuesday's presidential race was expected to be close. In exchange, Democrats agreed to vote for Nader in states where Republican George W. Bush was expected to win.

Of speculation and prognostication

POLLS ON TRACK . . .: Too close to call?

The polls leading up to Election Day got that right.

Gallup,, ABC News, the Washington Post, the Pew Research Group and several other major polling outfits showed Gov. George W. Bush of Texas slightly ahead of Vice President Al Gore in their final surveys before the polls opened Tuesday. All the poll results were within the margins of error, suggesting that the race was a statistical dead heat.

But as the votes continued to be counted late Tuesday night, it appeared that the armies of professional pollsters who had predicted a slim margin of victory for Bush might have been caught off guard by unexpectedly high turnout in some voter groups.

. . . PROFESSORS OFF BASE: Helmut Norpoth was scratching his head. Tom Holbrook had already heard sniping comments from colleagues. Jim Garand said it was "time to go back to the drawing board."

The three are among an elite group of political scientists who forecast presidential elections and had boasted an impressive track record in predicting outcomes well in advance. On Tuesday, they were cringing because they had forecast a large and very convincing victory by Vice President Gore, perhaps a rout.

Both Democrats and Republicans, they are members of an academic cadre that has constructed similar mathematical formulas largely based on readily available data on approval ratings of the incumbent president and the state of the economy.

A typical performance was that of Michael Lewis-Beck of the University of Iowa, who predicted in July of 1996 that President Clinton would get 54.8 percent of the two-party vote. Clinton won 54.7 percent.

This time Lewis-Beck had Vice President Al Gore at 55.4 percent of the two-party vote, which was apparently way off.

It was much the same for all the leading figures in a branch of academia that has always raised eyebrows from skeptical colleagues.

Norpoth, of the State University of New York at Stony Brook, figured Gore at 55 percent of the two-party vote, while the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee's Holbrook was at the highest end, predicting Gore with a whopping 60.3 percent.

Norpoth conceded: "We probably need a better variety of model. Our models now are all too similar; we're either all right or all wrong."

Holbrook maintained Tuesday that the undermining factor this year proved to be a Gore campaign that "virtually refused to take credit for the economy and the related successes of the Clinton administration."

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