Green votes may have cost Gore presidency

Green voters are said to have caused the knife-edge presidential vote in the US, with Green Party candidate Ralph Nader winning nearly 100,000 votes in a shock result in the critical state of Florida.

Democratic candidate Vice-President Al Gore may lose the presidential election by less than two thousand votes in Florida, although results may not be due until 17 November. And whichever candidate wins Florida will win the election, and become the next President of the United States.

As the results from states came in, it became clear that Ralph Nader had won single digit percentages in many closely-fought states – enough to deny either major party candidate a clear victory. In Florida, Nader has captured 96,698 votes, 2% of the electorate. With Bush at 2,909,136 and Gore at 2,907,351, this means Nader voters have the balance of power. However, a recount, currently underway, could alter the results and may even produce a Gore victory.

In a further blow to the two main candidates, many Nader voters said in exit polls that they would not have voted at all if Nader had not been in the race. Some Nader voters in key western states such as Washington took to tactical voting, switching votes with Nader supporters in states where there was a clear winner, such as Texas. Texas voters pledged to vote for Nader, leaving Washington Nader supporters free to vote for Gore.

Nader votes did not affect the result in a number of states despite strong support – 10% of the electorate backed him in Alaska. In Vermont, Montana, Maine, Wisconsin and Rhode Island, Nader also won support but did not alter the end result.

However, in a number of very closely contested states such as New Hampshire, Nader’s votes threw the state’s four electoral college votes to Bush, who won by 1%. In Oregon Nader votes also denied Gore a victory. Here Gore would have won the presidency, as the state’s seven college votes would have gone to him under the winner-takes-all US system, had Nader not been in the race. There is also a strong feeling among observers that Nader votes would have otherwise gone to Gore, with voters using their electoral muscle to protest at non-delivery of environmental promises.

Nader, however, said on 8 November that the Greens were now a “viable watchdog party,” whether or not they win the 5% of the electoral vote that would qualify the party for federal election funding in 2004. He denied that his participation in the race unfairly spoiled Gore’s presidential bid (see related story).

Nader claimed that Gore has not lived up to his image as a champion of the environment, citing the vice president’s record on globalisation, food safety, mining, commercial logging and other conservation and public health issues. He said: “I’ve always said that it was Al Gore’s election to lose, and that only Al Gore could beat Al Gore. He should have landslided George W Bush, with that terrible Texas record.”

Democratic National Committee chairman Joe Andrews said: “A vote for Ralph Nader, we’ve always said, is a vote that has consequences – consequences for real people across this country.”

Carl Pope, executive director of US-based environmental group, Sierra Club, concurred: “With the Presidential race as close as it was, having a third party candidate with an environmental vision similar to Gore’s clearly made a difference. This was particularly unfortunate because there is such a huge difference between the environmental records of Al Gore and George W


Several US Senators, whose environmental records put them in the League

of Conservation Voters’ ‘Dirty Dozen’ list have also been voted out of

office: the Republicans Spencer Abraham from Michigan, Bill McCollum, from Florida and Rod Grams from Minnesota.

The list is published annually and is designed to expose candidates who consistently vote against environmental measures (see related story). Despite the clout of the green vote, a number of others on the list including Virginia Governor George Allen, a Republican, and Conrad Burns, another Republican with a Montana seat, won re-election.

All the incumbent Representatives cited by the League as ‘environmental champions’- those who vote for the environment on a substantial majority of green issues – won re-election, including Republicans Jim Saxton of New Jersey and Chris Shays of Connecticut.

The League’s Democratic environmental champions, Joe Hoeffel of Pennsylvania, Jay Inslee of Washington, and Jim Maloney of Connecticut, also retained their seats.

Summing up the election, Nader said the Green Party has emerged as a powerful force that the Democratic Party will have to reckon with. “If Democrats are unhappy with the returns, they need to take a long, hard look at their own party,” he warned. “The Democrats must find their progressive roots, or watch the party wither away.”

For the Republican Party manifesto pledges for the environment (see related story)

For the Democrat’s manifesto pledges (see related story)

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