Tuesdays presidential election will be remembered as a watershed moment for the electoral process, changing the way voters and the media look at American politics.
Because of the tightness of the race, neither of the major presidential candidates, Vice President Al Gore and Texas Gov. George W. Bush, were able to claim victory on Wednesday morning. Fewer than 1,800 votes separated the two men in Florida, demanding a recount and leaving the entire nation holding its breath, not knowing who will be its next leader.
The election has caused people to question the very foundations of the government, and the election process will be closely examined in the years to come.
From now on, there will be no question as to whether one vote really counts. Eligible voters who did not head to the polls were left wondering what difference their vote could have made in the future of this country.
Those younger than 18 who went to bed and woke up to votes still being counted will have a unique perspective on voting. Hopefully this historic event will leave them with respect for the power and importance of their vote.
The election also has the entire country questioning the accuracy of elections and whether our process is prepared for an election this close. In Florida, investigations are pending on missing ballot boxes, broken voting booths and confusing ballots that may have caused people to vote for Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan instead of Gore. In the future, these small details will be seen as more consequential.
The medias role in the political process has also come under attack. Their quest to scoop each other caused them to relay false information to viewers. At one point in the evening, Gore was reported as the projected winner of Floridas electoral votes. Hours later, the media took its projection back, declaring the state too close to call.
By using projection formulas that it knew might be inaccurate in a close race and reporting before the outcome was absolute, the media toyed with the emotions of the people in this country. While their actions will not affect the final outcome, their reporting methods caused widespread confusion.
The only reason Florida is being inspected so closely is the states 25 electoral votes will determine the winner of the election. If other areas of the country were also examined, other concerns about the accuracy of the process would probably arise.
The validity of the nations electoral college is also under fire. For the first time since 1888 and only the fourth time in history, the next president may not be the winner of the popular vote. As votes are being feverishly counted across the nation, people are wondering whether they actually get to choose the president.
Both candidates agreed to abide by the process of the electoral college before running for president and the winner of the most electoral votes will take office despite the final popular vote results.
But in four years, this may not be the case. The 2004 presidential election is sure to look very different from this one.