Below is an excerpt from the CBS News internal investigation into its election-night coverage. The full report is available on the Internet site www.cbsnews.com
The first Florida call for Gore was probably unavoidable, given the current system of projecting winners. Early in the evening, the sample that VNS selected to represent voters statewide overestimated Gore's lead, and a call was made for him.
As the tabulated vote started accumulating, Gore lost his apparent lead, and a decision was made to take back the call. The ongoing VNS reviews have determined that the exit-poll sample of precincts in this election did not adequately represent the state.
The exit-poll sample estimated a significant Gore lead that never materialized. That fact remained unknown until the actual vote count. The sampling data and exit polling did not take into account the 12% of the Florida vote that was cast by absentee ballot, which also affected the quality of the data. The CBS News Decision Desk could not have known about these problems.
However, the second Florida call, the one for Bush, could have been avoided. It was based, as we have seen, on a combination of faulty tabulations entered into the total Florida vote, with an especially large error from Volusia County that exaggerated Bush's lead.
Later, in the early morning hours, reports from large precincts in Palm Beach were recorded, along with a surge of absentee ballots from that county. When the Volusia County numbers were corrected and the new numbers from Palm Beach taken into account, the Bush lead shrank, and a decision was made to take back the Bush call.
The call might have been avoided, if
there had been better communication between the CBS News Decision Desk and the CBS News studio and newsgathering operations, which had been reporting ballot irregularities and large numbers of potentially Democratic votes still outstanding, and if
the VNS vote totals had been checked against the ones from the AP and the Florida Secretary of State's Web site.
The AP corrected the Volusia County error 35 minutes before VNS did, and one minute before CBS News made its call.
And, despite all the understandable focus on the Florida calls, they were not the only mistaken calls of the night.