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How the 2000 Election Came Down to a Supreme Court Decision

September 24, 2020 in History

By Lesley Kennedy

As Florida’s electoral votes fell under dispute, controversy ensued over hanging chads, dimpled chads and butterfly bullets.

Five hundred thirty-seven votes.

That’s all that separated Democrat , asked, ”You mean to tell me, Mr. Vice President, you’re retracting your concession?” That was followed by Gore’s response: ”You don’t have to be snippy about it,” and, ”Let me explain something. Your younger brother is not the ultimate authority on this.”

Gore was referring to the fact that Florida’s governor at the time was Jeb Bush, Bush’s younger brother. Further fueling the fire: Katherine Harris, Florida’s secretary of state, charged with overseeing an impartial election, was a Republican who served as co-chair of Florida’s Bush for President election committee.

“When an election is this close, and closely fought, a recount along these timelines is to be expected,” says Rick Hasen, professor of law and political science at the University of California, Irvine, and author of The Voting Wars: From Florida 2000 to the Next Election Meltdown. “The Franken-Coleman recount of the Minnesota Senate race in 2008 took almost nine months to fully resolve. But for a presidential election we need finality much sooner, making everything more difficult.”

Busch says recounts at the local or state level are not infrequent, but an event like this, at the presidential level, hadn’t occurred for some time.

“In 1876, there was a much bigger dispute,” he says, referring to the election in which Republican Rutherford B. Hayes eventually emerged as president after neither major party candidate earned enough electoral votes to win without 20 disputed electors. A congressional stalemate led to the creation of a commission that controversially awarded all 20 disputed electors to Hayes.

“There was a lot of maneuvering, but not the same scenario,” Hasen says. “Florida in 2000 took so long because of multiple legal challenges, stops and starts to the recount that carried it beyond the norm.”

READ MORE: How the 1876 Election Tested the Constitution

The Florida Recount and Hanging Chads

Palm Beach canvassing board member Judge Charles Burton (L) takes a close look at a questionable ballot with Republican attorney John Bolton (R) and democratic attorney Gerry McDonough (C) at the Palm Beach county Emergency Operations Center in West Palm Beach, Florida, on November 18, 2000.

Over the next few weeks, with no winner yet determined, officials conducted an electronic recount, in which ballots were re-fed into the same machines, …read more


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