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Trump Supporters Point To Gore-Bush As A Precedent For Refusal Of Election Results

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

As we've noted, Donald Trump said he might not accept the results of the vote on November 8, and some have suggested there's a precedent for that, the year 2000 and the five weeks of uncertainty that followed that year's presidential election. Here at NPR, when we want a history lesson, we go to Papa Ron's desk. You know him as NPR senior political editor Ron Elving.

(SOUNDBITE OF COLLEGIUM AURIUM PERFORMANCE OF MOURET'S "FANFARE-RONDEAU")

MARTIN: So curl up with your cup of coffee and listen to a story from Papa Ron as he takes us back to the year 2000.

Once upon a time...

RON ELVING, BYLINE: The major party nominees 16 years ago were George W. Bush and Al Gore. And the popular vote, that year, favored Al Gore, a Democrat, of course, who had been the vice president to Bill Clinton. Gore won by about half a million votes nationwide. But he came up short of the 270 votes we hear about all the time. That's the majority of the Electoral College. And according to our Constitution, that's the only tally that matters. So Gore needed just one more state - of any size - to win. And on election night, one very large state was very, very close.

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UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #1: The state of Florida.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #2: Now, one of the key states is Florida.

BERNARD SHAW: A state too close to call at this hour...

JEFF GREENFIELD: Whoever wins Florida will be the next president of the United States.

ELVING: Networks called it early for Gore, then later for Bush.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TOM BROKAW: What the networks give us, the networks taketh away. NBC News...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BROKAW: George Bush is the president-elect of the United States. He has won the state of Florida according to our projections.

ELVING: Gore issued a statement conceding the contest to Bush.

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UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: President-elect Bush telling the vice president, quote, "you were a formidable opponent. I know this is hard on your family..."

ELVING: But as the Florida vote remained so close until the wee hours, Gore sent his campaign chairman Bill Daley out to take that back.

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BILL DALEY: Let me say, I've been in politics a very long time. But I don't think there's ever been a night like this one.

(CHEERING)

DALEY: Just an hour or so ago, the TV networks called this race for Governor Bush.

(BOOING)

DALEY: It now appears that their call was premature.

ELVING: The margin in Florida was less than a thousand votes.

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BROKAW: ...Has Al Gore trailing the president-elect in the state that proved to be pivotal by 565 votes.

ELVING: And it would continue to shrink. There were stories about bad ballots, crazy results from certain precincts, you know, interference with voting rights and so on. And the recounts began in various parts of a state, and the nation watched.

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UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #3: First, you have to know that the punch hole is called a chad.

ELVING: We all became acquainted with those tiny little bits of paper called chads that were left clinging to punch ballots like rogue whiskers on a chin. Should those ballots be counted or not? And which ballots were really valid? The Bush campaign got a favorable ruling from the Florida secretary of state, Katherine Harris, who was also the co-chair of the Bush campaign in Florida. She said the recounts were inconclusive, and she certified Bush the winner by 537 votes out of 6 million cast statewide.

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SECRETARY OF STATE KATHERINE HARRIS: I hereby declare Governor George W. Bush the winner of Florida's 25 electoral votes for the president of the United States.

ELVING: Well, weeks of courtroom battles followed. The Florida Supreme Court voted for a recount, but the Bush campaign appealed that all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and got a ruling there - 5-4 - that there was no way to recount the vote conclusively in a reasonable time frame.

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UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: It appears that the election night, which has lasted 34 days and most of tonight, is finally over - that the Supreme Court has reversed the Florida Supreme Court.

ELVING: And in essence, upholding Katherine Harris's earlier count - 537 votes, Bush won Florida. Bush won the presidency. At that point, five weeks after Election Day, the highest court in the land had spoken, and Al Gore went before the cameras again.

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AL GORE: I say to President-elect Bush that what remains of partisan rancor must now be put aside and may God bless his stewardship of this country.

ELVING: So Gore had accepted the apparent result once, on election night, then challenged the results from one state, then accepted the results at the directive of the Supreme Court. Some Democratic members of Congress and others urged Gore to fight on, not to say the election was rigged but to press for a better accounting of the vote. But Gore refused, and George W. Bush was inaugurated on January 20, 2001.

(SOUNDBITE OF 2001 PRESIDENTIAL INAUGURATION)

GEORGE BUSH: I, George Walker Bush, do solemnly swear.

ELVING: I'm Ron Elving, NPR News, Washington.

(SOUNDBITE OF 2001 PRESIDENTIAL INAUGURATION)

BUSH: So help me God.

WILLIAM REHNQUIST: Congratulations.

MARTIN: In that story, we heard tape from NBC, ABC, CNN and NPR. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.