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Fallout from Election Day 2000

by John Miller

MANAGING EDITOR

As Election Day grew into Election Night, and then into Election -- the Day After, one thing was increasingly clear: The race between Presidential hopefuls Al Gore and George W. Bush was close.

As The Exponent began to go to press around 2:20 a.m. Wednesday morning, News Editor James Logue informed me that several major networks had just awarded Florida to Bush, thus making him -- apparently -- the President of the United States.

A number of newspapers across the country gambled and went with what they had. Of course, as they quickly found out, what they had was wrong.

We chose not to go with the unofficial vote count, mainly because the networks had been wrong earlier in the day when they initially awarded Florida to Gore.

We could have gambled that early Wednesday morning. We could have been the only area newspaper with the story that morning. And we could have ended up with egg on our face.

In hindsight, we made the right decision.

Hopefully, this year's election follies have taught everyone in this business an important lesson: The networks don't select the President, the people do. Or, at least for now, the Electoral College does.

Not the networks. Not the newspapers. But a process at the root of our democracy -- voting.

Other thoughts from the election:

-- I really think Gov. Cecil Underwood's age was a factor in the voters' decision to give Bob Wise a chance.

Underwood, who turned 78 last Sunday, did a good job of leading this state. I think in 200 years, the history books will be kind to Underwood, who has had to deal with the decline of coal and steel, but managed to keep the economy stable and even show some signs of growth.

The Wise campaign never directly used age as a reference point, but it was good at saying that the state needed to move faster and farther than it did under Underwood, perhaps a subliminal hint that a younger Wise would be better than the current governor.

I've had several readers tell me that they thought age was a factor, which is unfortunate. As I said, I think Underwood will be remembered for being a strong, fair governor.

Hopefully, four years from now, we can say the same about Wise.

-- The new governor faces some difficult challenges, namely the same ones that kept Underwood's administration from showing the same amount of economic prosperity the rest of the nation has enjoyed. It will be interesting to see how Wise's administration will deal with some tough issues now that the election is over. As most of us have learned, election rhetoric is seldom remembered when it comes time to make policy.

-- Another big factor in Wise's election was the support shown by the ever-popular U.S. Senators, Robert C. Byrd and Jay Rockefeller, and Congressman Alan Mollohan. The Democrats played to their strengths, got Wise in the spotlight and rode their party dominance (remember, Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-1 in the Mountain State) to victory.

-- And one final thought: With 19,000 votes disallowed in Palm Beach County, Fla., and millions more unaccounted for across the nation on Friday, it's woefully obvious the current election process is lacking. Whomever is the next President of the United States should make election security a top priority.

John G. Miller is managing editor of the Clarksburg Exponent and Telegram newspapers. He can be reached at 304-626-1473 or by e-mail at jmiller@exponent-telegram.com.

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