Results leave many befuddled
By JORGE SANCHEZ and BILL VARIAN
© St. Petersburg Times, published November 9, 2000
Elizabeth Blackwelder went to bed Monday night believing the Minnesota Vikings had their football game against the Green Bay Packers well in hand. She woke the next morning to learn the Packers pulled an overtime stunner as she slept thanks to a bizarre passing play.
It was Monday Night Football all over again for Blackwelder on Tuesday. Only this time the contest was between presidential candidates.
"I went to sleep thinking one side was ahead," said Blackwelder, a judicial assistant for Citrus County Circuit Judge Patricia Thomas. "This time I woke up to find out that nobody had won."
Citrus County residents, like citizens across the country, woke up sleepy and confused Wednesday morning.
If they had turned in early, they thought Vice President Al Gore had the edge in the presidential race, having been declared the victor in the critical Sunshine State. Those who waited until 2:17 a.m. saw Texas Gov. George Bush declared the next president. An hour later, Gore was conceding defeat.
But then came another collapse. And as they readied for work and turned on the television, citizens saw the network tickers that had showed Bush with 271 electoral votes now reading lower. They learned that about 1,700 votes separated the candidates in Florida with absentee ballots still uncounted.
As the sleep-deprived went about their business Wednesday, the presidential election was on their minds. Many were puzzled over the elections results and even more said this election was a reason why the electoral college should be dismantled. Still others were mad at themselves for not voting.
Mike Imler, 19, of Floral City, said he intended to vote, but missed the deadline for registration. He did give a couple of people rides to the polls.
"I keep thinking, "What if it's my vote that would have made the difference?' " he lamented on Wednesday. His friend, Alex Velazquez, 23, of Floral City, also failed to vote.
"I've voted before, and now I'm also kicking myself about it, 'cause I would have voted for Gore."
Robert Doolittle, 25, said he did not vote because he had to work at Little Caesars in Crystal River.
"I guess I could have voted earlier but I didn't want to get up."
Wednesday morning, though, Doolittle was sorry he slept in. "It's so close I'll regret if Bush loses. I've never really thought about my vote being that important. Obviously, every vote counts."
Arbor Lakes resident Dudley Cohn, a Bush supporter, didn't mind the close outcome or the fact that some people failed to vote.
"I'm glad," said Cohn. "They probably would have voted for Gore anyway."
Orville Plowman of Inverness said the reporting of the results was confusing. "First they were giving the state to Gore, then to Bush," he said.
Plowman said he wanted the election to be decided by the popular vote instead of the electoral college. As of late Wednesday, Gore led the popular vote nationally but still stood lose the election if he doesn't claim the lead in Florida, with its 25 electoral votes.
"No matter how it turns out, if one man won by a popular vote and another with the electoral, it would bother me. Though it's happened before," he said.
Another voter said she feared the voting process was somehow flawed.
"I don't really understand how we could have miscounted, with all the computers and technology," said Lisa Hasekamp. "This is probably going to turn into some kind of huge fiasco because lawyers will surely file some challenges."
As for the electoral college voting process, she said:
"The electoral bothers me, because I don't understand it."
Jean Longworth of Inverness said the recount cast a suspicious cloud over the elections.
"It's terrible. This should have been resolved, but I favor having a recount to settle it."
Another voter recalled how an earlier election also changed overnight."
"This reminds me of the Truman-Dewey race," said Helen Gennett of Inverness. "I thought they called Florida for Gore awfully quick last night."
She also said the popular vote should decide the outcome.
- Staff writer Alex Leary contributed to this story.
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From the Times election desk
Presidential State Pinellas Hillsborough Pasco Hernando Citrus
State Pinellas Hillsborough Pasco Hernando Citrus
Pinellas Hillsborough Pasco Hernando Citrus
From the AP