WASHINGTON (BP)– Both presidential candidates, as well as the American people, should be willing to accept the results of the vote recounts in Florida and elsewhere, a Southern Baptist public policy specialist said Nov. 10 as the country waited to find out who would govern from the White House the next four years.
While Vice President Al Gore held a slim lead in electoral votes, Republican candidate George W. Bush maintained a narrow edge in Florida, a state that apparently would give either candidate the presidency with its 25 electoral votes. A recount in all of Florida’s counties reportedly reduced Bush’s lead to about 300 votes, even as the Gore campaign expressed support for legal action in the disputed results in Palm Beach County.
Legal action should not be the course used to resolve the election, said Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
“We ought to pray for Americans and the two candidates to abide by the rule of law,” Land said. “Any other decision would do grievous harm to our constitutional republic, whatever candidate would be discerned to be the winner according to the law.
“The last thing we need to do is to try to alter the results by going into court and suing for another chance to vote or for a partial re-vote. As long as no fraud is proven, the election after the recounts should stand. If you start having partial re-votes, you open up a can of worms that is going to be very difficult to control.
“America does not want to go down this road,” he said. “Whichever candidate we supported, we need to abide by the law. We ought to do the best that we can to determine accurately what the vote totals are of all eligible ballots cast according to the law and then abide by the results of the election conducted under those laws.”
Robert E. Reccord, president of the SBC’s North American Mission Board, also called for prayer.
“In these days when we see our nation fighting for its very soul, every Christian needs to take seriously praying for our nation and its leadership,” Reccord said. “God has promised us, ‘… call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me (Ps. 50:15).”
Reccord also noted, “This bizarre election is showing that not only is every vote important, but every Christian is responsible under God to know the issues and weigh them biblically. As Christians, we must put our ‘Christian worldview’ into action, and the poll is one of the places that must happen. I trust this experience will serve as an important learning time for Christians as well a warning of how quickly a culture can slip from its original moorings.”
As of mid-day Nov. 10, Gore had 255 or 260 electoral votes, depending on which news source is relied upon. Most had given New Mexico’s five electoral votes to Gore, while others had not. Bush was credited with 246 electoral votes. A candidate needs 270 votes in the electoral college to win the presidency.
In the hotly disputed vote in Florida, Bush led by 327 votes after all 67 counties had completed their recounts, according to the Associated Press. Only 53 of those counties had reported their results to the state office by the evening of Nov. 9, however, and they have until Nov. 14 to do so. Absentee ballots from overseas may be counted until Nov. 17.
While the recount in Florida was awaited, recounts also were possible in states such as New Mexico, Oregon, Iowa and Wisconsin because of their narrow results.
Recounts in four congressional districts could change the Republican’s edge in the House of Representatives. Before those recounts, the GOP held 221 seats, the Democrats 212 and independents two.
The final margin in the Senate also is unknown. Republicans lead 50-49, with the race in Washington still undetermined. Republican incumbent Slade Gorton held a tiny lead over Maria Cantwell with absentees ballots still out.
Much is at stake. In the presidential race, the future makeup of the U.S. Supreme Court and probably some contentious moral issues hang in the balance. The winner may have the opportunity to nominate as many as four justices in the next four years.
That forecast became a significant issue in the campaign, especially in the hands of abortion advocates and opponents. Gore said in his first of three debates with Bush his choices for the high court and other federal judgeships would “very likely” uphold a right to abortion. Bush said his appointees would “strictly interpret” the Constitution, giving pro-lifers hopes he would name judges opposed to the Roe v. Wade opinion legalizing abortion.
Currently, however, seven of the Supreme Court’s nine justices are Republican nominees, and only three oppose Roe v. Wade.
The court’s future on the continuing question of homosexual rights also may be affected by whether Bush or Gore wins the election.
Who is president also would determine the fate of a variety of issues in Congress, including efforts to restrict abortion. Bush has said he supports parental notification for a minor’s abortion and a ban on partial-birth abortion, a gruesome procedure performed on a nearly totally delivered child in the fifth or sixth month of pregnancy. Gore opposes both efforts.
The election showed America is a “deeply divided nation, desperately in search of consensus,” Land said on the ERLC’s radio program, “For Faith and Family,” Nov. 8.
“And as Christians, we are to pray for the spiritual awakening of our nation, which is the only real solution to our nation’s ills. Our hope should not be in elections but in a spiritual awakening. Until that day, we will continue to be afflicted by the ills that come from rebellion against God.”
In exit polling, white religious conservatives chose Bush overwhelmingly, while homosexual and bisexual voters selected Gore by nearly as great a margin. “White religious right” voters went for Bush 79 to 19 percent, according to a Washington Post/Voters News Service exit poll. Those voters constituted 14 percent of the electorate, according to the poll.
Homosexuals and bisexuals voted for Gore by 71 to 24 percent, the poll reported. They made up four percent of the electorate, according to the poll.
In other results of the exit poll, Protestants favored Bush, while Catholics, Jews and the nonreligious went for Gore.
At least three solid-pro-life senators appear to have gone down to defeat. Republicans John Ashcroft of Missouri, Spencer Abraham of Michigan and Rod Grams of Minnesota lost.
Pro-lifers made a net gain, however, in pro-life Republican John Ensign of Nevada and another net addition on at least some abortion votes in George Allen’s defeat of Democratic incumbent Chuck Robb in Virginia. Also, Democrat Ben Nelson may turn out to be a pro-life addition from Nebraska.
In the Senate’s most closely watched race, first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton easily defeated Republican Rick Lazio. Afterward, Kate Michelman, president of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, said in a written statement abortion rights supporters “can count on Hillary to side with the women of this nation in the face of any assault on Roe and their reproductive freedom.”
In the House, well-known evangelical Christians Steve Largent and J.C.Watts, both of Oklahoma, and Jim Ryun of Kansas all won decisively.
On state measures, voters in Nebraska and Nevada approved bans on same-sex marriages, but an effort in Oregon to prohibit the promotion of homosexuality in public schools appeared to be defeated.
Anti-gambling forces won in such states as Arkansas and Maine but lost in such places as South Carolina and South Dakota.
Voters in Colorado convincingly turned back a proposal to require a 24-hour waiting period for an abortion, while Maine defeated a measure that would have legalized physician-assisted suicide.
Alaska voters defeated an effort to legalize marijuana for a variety of uses, but approval of the drug for medicinal purposes passed in Colorado and Nevada.
Dwayne Hastings & Martin King contributed to this article.