The U.S. presidential election of 2000 went down in history as one of the most curious in the modern history of the nation. The legal dispute that landed in the hands of the Supreme Court of the United States involved the matter of how votes had been counted and whether “harm” had been incurred by one of the presidential candidates by the recount efforts initiated by a case before the Florida court.
The Supreme Court handed down the decision on Bush v. Gore based on questions of how the Florida Supreme Court had decided to allow the recount, and the final determination, which gave the election win to George W. Bush on the basis of a mere 547 additional votes. A Messy Election In many ways the outcome of the 2000 election took many people by surprise. Few expected the actual vote count would be razor thin, especially in Florida, which held 25 electoral votes that could put either candidate over the needed amount of 537. The media, which had historically played a part in announcing the winner via its exit polling, declared Gore the winner based on exit polling numbers, then had to retract its announcement.
The candidates themselves seemed unprepared to deal with an election whose votes came this close. Al Gore quickly made a concession call to George W, and then made a second call retracting the concession based on the uncertainty of the election outcome. Bush became both puzzled and angry about the retraction of the concession. For few moments, American citizens stood, holding their breath, uncertain about who would be their next leader.
The Bush V. Gore Case The close election results triggered a recount in the state of Florida that exposed some of the shortcomings of the recount process. Meanwhile, the public ate their Thanksgiving dinners and began their Christmas shopping, waiting for a decision on the outcome of the election. Media cameras showed people deciphering punched ballots that may or may not be determined for one or the other of the candidates.
These individuals often had to hold the ballot up to the light to determine whether a “pregnant chad,” one that was pushed out, but not perforated, was intended as a vote or not. The arbitrary nature of the process triggered the Bush v. Gore suit that questioned whether the state had any standards in place for determining the validity of these votes. The Court decided for George Bush having been “harmed” by the arbitrariness of the ballot examination process, in a 5 to 4 vote.
Other Questions on the Vote Count But the pregnant chads were not the only questions about the 2000 election. The “butterfly ballot” in Palm Beach County in Florida was another matter in dispute. This ballot had been designed across two pages, aligning names and places to puncture the vote in a confusing manner. Questions about the ballot arose when candidate Pat Buchanan, an ultra-conservative Republican, received a large percentage of votes in a largely Democratic leaning county. Another questions involved the Florida Supreme Court’s actions in the electoral dispute. Yet another question was about the propriety of the Supreme Court becoming involved in the presidential electoral process.
These questions remain unresolved to this day. Ultimately, these questions were disregarded once the Supreme Court made its decision. George W. Bush became the 43rd president of the United States and went on to win a second term in 2004. In all, the 2000 election became one of the most chaotic in recent memory, and both the Supreme Court decision and questions about the actual conduct of the voting process came into question in some areas. However, George W. Bush went on to win a second term in office, presiding over an administration that still provokes a number of both questions and complaints.