Choose your own adventure

There's no telling how this Florida legal weirdness may end up.



1. The Florida Supreme Court has voted 4-3 to allow hand recounts in the 2000 presidential election. The Bush campaign has appealed to both the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court, asking for an injunction.

If Bush’s appeals are heard by the Supreme Court, go to 2. If the appeal is ignored, and the count commences immediately, go to 4.

2. The U.S. Supreme Court meets, reviews the case and makes a ruling.

If it decides not to hear it, or that the Florida high court was fair, go to 4.

If it decides that the ruling is full of it, and subsequently tosses it out, go to 5. If it repeats itself, and asks the Florida Supreme Court to review its decision and send it back, go to 11.

3. The recount is finally completed! What an effort!

If they finish by Dec. 12, go to 6. If they finish after Dec. 12, and find that Bush wins, go to 5. If they finish after Dec. 12, and find that Gore wins, go to 7. If they don’t finish by Dec. 18, go to 5.

4. The recounts are on!

If the courts specifies exactly what kind of ballot markings count as a vote, go to 9. If the courts continue to leave this matter vague, go to 10.

5. It’s all over! Bush wins! Or does he?

If two electors defect from Bush and vote for Gore, go to 22. If all the electors do as they’re told, go to 23.

6. As of this writing, Bush started up with 154 votes over Gore, so with the count done …

If Gore gains more than 154 votes, go to 12. If Bush maintains his lead, go to 5.

7. If Dec. 12 comes and goes without the recounts being completed, the members of the GOP-led Florida Legislature have made it clear they want to vote their own slate of pro-Bush electors to the Electoral College.

If they decide to vote their own electors, even if Gore wins, go to 8. If they don’t, go to 19.

8. It’s a crazy Electoral College crisis! If Gore won the vote in Florida, then he has rightful claim to the 25 Florida electors. But the Legislature sent 25 Florida Bush electors too! We’re bordering on chaos here! It’s time for Congress to step in. Go to 15.

9. Thanks to the clear specifications by the Florida 2nd Circuit Court, there is no debate over what qualifies as a vote, and it’s done in a timely manner. Go to 3.

10. Confusion reigns, in the counting rooms and among pundits discussing the recounts. There are several more court cases slowing this down. Go to 3.

11. The Florida Supreme Court rethinks everything, and sends it back with the clarification requested by the U.S. Supreme Court. Go to 4.

12. Gore is the rightful winner of the Florida election and the Electoral College.

If Bush and the GOP bow out gracefully, go to 18. If they don’t, and the Legislature votes Bush’s electors in anyway, go to 8.

13. Regardless of whether Bush or Gore won, the Florida Legislature has sent its own folks to the Electoral College.

If this happened, and Bush was still the vote winner as of Dec. 18, go to 6. If this happened, and Gore was the winner as of Dec. 18, go to 8.

14. Civil War! Tanks roll into Washington as fires fill the congressional halls and the White House turns red with blood. Yes, for those of you who remember the classic Choose-Your-Own-Adventure “UFO 54-40,” this is one of those surprise endings you can only find by cheating. But in this bizarre election year, anything is possible, so there you go.

15. Only two years after the impeachment of President Clinton, Congress again will determine the fate of the leader of the free world. This is serious stuff. It’s now early January, and in a cold winter session, both the House and Senate have to decide which Florida slate is legit, and they have to agree! The GOP controls the House, the Senate is split 50-50 with Al Gore himself being the tie-breaking vote! It’s chaos again.

Do the House and Senate disagree? Go to 16. Does the House vote for Bush and the Senate tie for both Gore and Bush? Go to 20. Do a couple of Democratic senators decide to break ranks and vote for Bush? Go to 5. Does Congress decide to seat Gore? Go to 18.

16. The Congress can’t agree; House and Senate are divided as to who will be the next president of the United States. Jan. 20 is coming up. So, under the federal Electoral Count Act of 1887 it falls to the chief executive of the state with the confused slate to make the decision. In this case, Florida Gov. John Ellis “Jeb” Bush.

Does Jeb decide to avoid the wrath of history? Go to 17. Does Jeb go ahead and pick his big brother, even if the Florida Supreme Court is threatening him with contempt? Go to 5.

17. Don’t delude yourself. Go to 5.

18. It’s over! Gore wins! He has successfully won the most contested election in peacetime U.S. history and right-wing talk radio has more fodder than it can deal with for four years. But who cares, there’s a lot of Tipper smooching ahead, America!

19. Yeah, right. Go to 13.

20. Al Gore has to break the tie. But is it a conflict of interest to vote for yourself at a time like this? Gore decides that it is unethical to vote for himself, and recuses himself. Go to 21. Gore votes for himself. Go to 16.

21. It’ll be a frosty day in Hades before that’ll happen. So go to 18.

22. Two electors, citing Gore’s win in the popular vote, decide to give the election to him. It seems like constitutional chaos, but it’s all part of America’s arcane system.

Does Al Gore accept these defections? Go to 18.

Does Al Gore make a moving speech to the American people, stating that he doesn’t want to win on a technicality? Go to 21.

23. Ladies and gentlemen — Our 43rd president: George W. Bush. America unites around him, and Fox News struts around with an “I told you so” smirk about its collective news face. Meanwhile, federal agents storm the Voter News Service headquarters just days after inauguration …

Eric F. Lipton is a writer and journalist in Chicago. Despite it all, he still has a little crush on Princess Leia.

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