Government site focus of surreal US election

After months of discussion about the Web's role in the 2000 presidential election, many eyes were trained overnight on an unlikely site -- not CNN or MSNBC but that of Florida's department of state.

          After months of discussion about the Web's role in the 2000 presidential election, many eyes were trained overnight on an unlikely site – not CNN or MSNBC but that of Florida's department of state.

          At last check shortly after 5 am ET, the site, at http://election.dos.state.fl.us, listed George Bush leading by 1210 votes in what had become the decisive state. News reports repeatedly cited the state government page in its stories about the fight for Florida's 25 electoral votes, with NBC News even displaying a blurry image of it on its broadcast. All the promotion led to the inevitable – repeated crashes, as voters desperate for information logged on to view updates.

          The numbers posted on the site were heralded as more reliable than those produced by the Voter News Service, the feed relied on by the networks whose numbers implied a bigger Bush majority.

          Florida election officials told Tom Brokaw that the site would continue to be the best source of information on the state's tally.

          The site's role in the election was reinforced when news outlets reported that Florida governor Jeb Bush was himself logging on to find out the fate of his brother's presidential bid. That bid, of course, is still unresolved, with the Florida race subject to a recount.

          Around the Web, sites struggled to keep up with the news. As late as 4:00 am ET, MSNBC site still ran the headline "Florida Puts Bush Over the Top," despite the fact that NBC News had been among the first to recant the call that George W. Bush had won the election. CNN and others made that projection shortly after 2 am ET.

          Most of the sites that had such a headline up were able to retract the Dewey-vs.-Truman-esque mistake relatively quickly. But the Old Media wasn't as lucky – the New York Post printed a "Bush Wins" headline in large red type.

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