WASHINGTON, Nov. 7 -- Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore picked up key projected victories in Florida, New York and Illinois Tuesday night and was leading in the battleground states of Michigan and Pennsylvania, while Republican George W. Bush won projected victories in Ohio and Gore's home state of Tennessee - with votes from the West Coast including California yet to be counted.
With 20 percent of the national vote counted, Bush led Gore 51 percent to 46 percent - 12,683,728 to 11,501,296. Green Party candidate Ralph Nader had 2 percent of the vote at 545,718 and Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan had 94,762.
But in the count of projected electoral votes, Gore led 179-173. Gore was projected to have won Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont, for a total of 179 electoral votes; while Bush was projected to have won in Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Virginia and Wyoming, for a total of 173.
Gore spokesman Doug Hattaway told UPI: "We're thrilled about the victory in Florida, but there are many more to go. It's still too close to call in a lot of big states. This could be the first election in 30 years decided on the West Coast."
But Bush said from Austin, Texas, that he "was not conceding anything in Florida" or other swing states.
Polls leading up to Tuesday's elections showed the closest presidential races in decades -- virtually a dead heat between Bush, 54, son of President George Bush, and Gore, 52, a former U.S. senator and the son of the late U.S. Sen. Al Gore Sr.
Voter turnout was reported heavy throughout most of the country.
Tuesday's election was the climax of a campaign that was the most expensive in U.S. history, with an estimated $3 billion spent on the presidential and congressional campaigns.
Besides the presidential race, voters were deciding all 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, 34 of the 100 seats in the Senate, and 11 of the 50 governorships.
Gore and Bush battled for a majority -- at least 270 -- of the 538 votes of the Electoral College, which actually elects the president and vice president. Each state's electoral vote is based on the number of representatives and senators the state has in Washington.
The popular vote in each state and the District of Columbia determines which slates of electors vote in the Electoral College. In Maine and Nebraska the electoral vote is divided according to the results in each congressional district, but elsewhere it's winner-take-all.
Electors meet in their state capitals on Dec. 18 to cast their ballots, which are to be read before Congress Jan. 6. If no presidential candidate gains a majority of electoral votes, the House of Representatives selects the president. If there is no Electoral College majority for a vice presidential candidate, the Senate makes the selection.
The newly elected president and vice president will be inaugurated Jan. 20. Appellate court orders St. Louis polls closedA state appellate court Tuesday ordered polls in St. Louis closed just before 8 p.m., overturning a lower court order that had ordered them to remain open until 10 p.m. The initial order by St. Louis Judge Evelyn Baker came as a result of a suit brought by a congressional candidate who argued citizens were being denied their right to vote because polling stations had insufficient rolls and other supplies.