Nevada’s votes put Gore down |

Nevada’s votes put Gore down

CARSON CITY – George Bush barely won the presidency – and Nevada won a spot in accounts of the 2000 elections – as four staunch state Republicans cast the nation’s final electoral votes Monday.

”Here’s number 270,” said elector and state Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, as he turned in his paper ballot.

”Here’s number 271,” said elector Tom Wiesner of Las Vegas, a GOP national committeeman for 16 years.

Bush needed 270 electoral votes, and got 271 to Democrat Al Gore’s 266 electoral votes. Gore should have got 267, but a rogue Democratic elector from the District of Columbia left her ballot blank to protest Washington’s lack of representation in Congress.

About 100 people, jammed into an old courtroom in the Nevada Capitol, applauded and cheered as the electors’ ballots – not punchcards – were examined and the vote was announced by Secretary of State Dean Heller.

Each elector voted twice – first for Bush, a second time for his vice presidential choice, Dick Cheney.

At the end of the 20-minute session, Raggio, Wiesner and electors Trudy Hushbeck of Carson City and Jane Ham of Las Vegas all said they never gave a second thought to being a ”faithless elector” and not voting for Bush.

”Never. He’s the best man for the job,” said Hushbeck, a Bush alternate at this year’s national GOP convention and northern Nevada director for the state GOP.

Ham, a former state assemblywoman, said she got a call urging her to switch her vote to Al Gore, ”but I said I didn’t care a rat’s rear end” about the suggestion.

If just two Bush electors had switched their votes, it would have thrown the election to the U.S. House. Nevada law prohibits switching – but there’s no specific penalty for a violation.

By the time Nevada’s electors gathered in Carson City, electors in every other state that voted for Bush in November had already met.

Nevada’s 2 p.m. balloting was an hour later than voting by GOP electors in Idaho and Montana, and two hours later than Republican elector voting in Alaska.

The electors faced a last-minute legal challenge from Reno lawyer Carter King, who claimed Nevada’s ”winner-take-all” electoral system is unconstitutional.

But U.S. District Judge David Hagen of Reno rejected King’s lawsuit on Friday.

King said Nevada’s four electoral votes should be split because Gore won in the state’s 1st Congressional District, based in Las Vegas, while Bush won in the 2nd Congressional District, encompassing the rest of the state.

But Hagen said Nevada law states that the electors are to vote only for the presidential candidate who got the most votes statewide – even if the results within the state’s two congressional districts differed.

While he trailed in one of the districts, Bush got 49.5 percent of the statewide vote to Gore’s 45.9 percent.

Hagen cited a 1969 federal court case, involving Virginia’s electors, that said a similar ”unit rule” in that state didn’t violate the one-person, one-vote doctrine or constitutional equal protection guarantees.

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