November 2, 2010

Watching the 2000 Election from Munich, Germany



     My most memorable election experience—the 2000 presidential election.

     It wasn’t made memorable by the controversy over the Florida votes, although, like most Americans, the controversy made the 2000 voting unforgettable.

     It was memorable because I watched the results in Munich, Germany.

     My husband and Monte and I flew out of the Pittsburgh airport on November 1st for a two week trip to Munich, where our son, Nolan, held a post doctorate position at the Max Planck Institute in Munich. Knowing we would be traveling, we had completed absentee ballots.

     Monte and Nolan took off to visit several regions, including Prague. I wanted to stay in Munich, becoming familiar with the town, rather than to skim it to fly past other places we couldn’t visit.

     On November 8th I visited the Amerikahaus, a place where Americans gather to read literature from home and socialize with each other. However, I was the only American there that day.

     Inside was an open area with a staircase to a balcony. Upon reaching the balcony I leaned against the railing to view the structure from above. It was then that I noticed the pictures flitting against a large wall. It took me a moment to realize that I was watching CNN, an American television station. Wow, I thought, here I am in Germany watching American TV!

     Then it sank in. Not only was I watching American television, but I was being informed of the controversy over the Florida votes. I sat on the steps for a while, eyes glued to the wall.

     Although George W. Bush had taken an early lead, Al Gore hadn’t been worried.  After all, the deficit wasn’t that bad.

     I learned that before 10:00 the night before, most of the television networks placed Gore first. By 10:00, however, his name was moved to the undecided column. For several hours, Bush and Gore swapped the projected lead position. They finally settled on a 242-242 electoral vote tie. Florida’s twenty-five votes became crucial.

     The early morning returns began to swing in Bush’s favor. With many networks calling Florida for Bush at 2:15 a. m., Gore was ready to concede to him—and even placed the call.

     However, before Gore could present his concession speech, his advisors noticed that Bush’s lead was waning. Florida’s votes became too close to call. Gore called bush and retracted his concession, and Americans watching the telly saw the networks name Florida “undecided.”   

     Since Florida law demands a recount in close races, and Bush’s lead was only 1700 votes, wheels were set in motion for an electoral horse race.          

     The nation watched. And I watched, for a while, from the Amerikahaus in Munich.

     Florida legally could not immediately count overseas absentee ballots—they had until November 17 to do so. These ballots were coming back, several thousand of them. And these ballots could change the outcome of the Florida election.

     Another issue was the so-called butterfly ballot design, which many Florida voters complained were confusing. Calls for a re-vote were beginning based the ballot design that caused an abnormally high number of votes in one particular county.

     Quick recounts done immediately after Election Day. Later, these recounts changed Bush’s 1700 vote winning margin to just over 300 votes. Nineteen thousand ballots in Palm Beach county were found to be spoiled and were discarded. More Floridians would demand a re-vote, something unprecedented in electoral history. (All demands were eventually denied.)

     All this—or the lead-ins to the controversies—was being aired in the Amerikahaus in Munich, where I sat for perhaps an hour, watching.

     I decided I could familiarize myself about the elections after returning home, but I only had this opportunity to explore Munich. I left the Amerikahaus and wandered into the ancient St. Joseph’s Church to examine its architecture and sit and meditate for a while.

     Returning to my homeland, I caught up on all the election controversy and happenings. Ten days after the election, and three days after my return, two controversial questions were being asked about the Florida election: Is it legal for some counties to do a manual recount of ballots, and is it legal for the Florida Secretary of State to reject the recount numbers after the statutory deadline had passed?

     It is doubtful I will be in Munich during another American election. But if I do, I know where to learn news about the election: at the Amerikahaus.





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A Trip From Long Ago


1 Comment »

  1. very good article and Nice support article.
    Thank you for sharing information.

    Comment by leonardrosenow — November 2, 2010 @ 7:16 am | Reply

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