Bush v. Gore: The Question of Legitimacy

Bush v. Gore
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Instead, Bush v. Gore represented a day American drama of the highest order, captivating the world's attention as the U. At the same time, the nation witnessed the Bush and Gore legal teams doing whatever they could to secure what each candidate felt rightly belonged to him.

Having lost the nationwide popular vote by approximately , votes, Bush defeated Gore in Florida by a mere votes to capture that state's 25 electors, enough to win the electoral college and the presidency. As daylight turned to twilight on the East Coast of the United States , it became evident that Florida's 25 electoral votes held the key to victory in the November 7, , U. Early returns combined with exit polling results indicated that Gore had a commanding lead in the state.

By p. EST, all of the major television networks projected that Gore had defeated Bush to become the nation's next president. However, the polls had not yet closed in the Florida's panhandle, which is in the Central time zone. A few hours later, the lead swung to Bush, forcing the networks to retract their projections.


By EST, Bush appeared to have a decisive lead of about 50, votes, and all of the major networks were declaring Bush the winner. Gore even called Bush privately to concede. But while Gore was en route to Nashville, Tennessee, to make his public concession speech, Gore's aides informed him that Bush's lead had shrunk to a few thousands votes, at best.

Gore immediately withdrew his concession, and the embarrassed networks announced the race was too close to call. When the votes were finally tallied on November 8, minus the late-arriving overseas ballots, Bush was ahead of Gore by 1, votes, or less than.

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Under Florida Election Law, a recount was automatic in these circumstances, unless Gore refused, which he did not. The recount was performed by machine and was designed to correct any errors in the first machine tabulation of the vote.

On November 10 the first recount was complete. Bush's lead had dwindled to votes. Before the results of the first recount were announced, two controversies had arisen. First, all Palm Beach County voters had cast their votes on confusing ballots known as "butterfly ballots", which displayed candidates' names on both sides of the ballot, one pair of candidates' names on top of the other, with arrows pointing toward the middle of the ballot, where voters were required to mark their vote by using a stylus to punch through a small circular or rectangular "chad" a perforated punchhole used to record votes.

The poorly configured ballot had caused hundreds or more of elderly Jewish voters to mistakenly cast their vote for pat buchanan, a right-wing candidate for the reform party, someone whom such voters are demographically unlikely to support. Second, Gore's legal team had discovered an unusually high number of "undervotes" ballots that the tabulating machines had not counted as a vote for any presidential candidate in counties that used punchcard voting.

Florida's election law allows both candidates to "protest" an election by requesting a manual recount within seven days of the election, and the county canvassing boards "may" agree to authorize one, Fla. On November 9 Gore invoked these statutory provisions, asking the canvassing boards of Broward, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, and Volusia Counties to authorize a manual recount.

So, who really won? What the Bush v. Gore studies showed

Gore had carried each of those counties by wide margins and expected to benefit from a manual recount of the ballots in those heavily Democratic counties. Notwithstanding Republican opposition, all four counties authorized a manual recount of several "sample" precincts. Once the sample precincts had been manually recounted, state law authorized the canvassing boards to order a full recount of all ballots cast in the county if the results from the sample precincts indicated "an error in the vote tabulation which could affect the outcome of the election," Fla.

The problem was that Florida law required all counties in the state to submit their final counts by November 14, again minus the overseas votes, which could be submitted until November Only Volusia County met the November 14 deadline, and Florida secretary of state Katherine Harris, the state's highest election official, refused to extend the deadline so the manual recount could be completed in the other three counties. In making her decision, Harris was accused of being influenced by Republican Florida governor Jeb Bush, brother of presidential candidate George W.

Bush, even though Harris was a prominent member of the state republican party who had been elected to office and not appointed by the governor. On November 18 Harris announced that the overseas votes had increased Bush's lead from to votes. The Broward, Palm Beach, and Miami-Dade canvassing boards sued Harris to extend the deadline on which they had to submit their final counts, and though they lost in trial court, the Florida Supreme Court overruled the trial court and extended the deadline to November The state high court authorized the canvassing boards to order countywide manual recounts if they concluded that the results from their sample precincts revealed "an error in the vote tabulation which could affect the outcome of the election.

But the Florida Supreme Court ruled that this phrase also included voter error in failing to fully dislodge the chad from the ballot, such that the chad was left "hanging" by one corner, "swinging" by two corners, attached by three corners a "tri-chad" , or otherwise "dimpled" or "pregnant" dimpled and pregnant chads referred to bulging, indented, or marked chads that remain attached to the ballot by all four corners. On remand all three canvassing boards concluded that "an error in vote tabulation" had occurred and ordered countywide manual recounts of hundreds of thousands of votes across several hundred precincts.

With Bush holding a lead of votes after factoring in the manually recounted ballots from Broward County, Katherine Harris certified Bush the winner on November Gore then sued Harris to contest the certification, again losing in the trial court but prevailing on appeal, where the Florida Supreme Court ruled that Harris had to include in her certified totals the untimely recounted votes from Palm Beach and Miami-Dade Counties, which whittled down Bush's lead to votes.

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In seeking to meet that standard, Mr. Gore is dead. Given all these factors, and in light of the legislative intent identified by the Florida Supreme Court to bring Florida within the "safe harbor" provision of 3 U. The problem inheres in the absence of specific standards to ensure its equal application. Furthermore, the citizen who marks two candidates, only one of which is discernible by the machine, will have his vote counted even though it should have been read as an invalid ballot. Nor did it assure the public that the process had worked fairly, guided by the law. The dissenters felt that not ordering a recount would undermine the legitimacy of the democratic process and that the Court should be careful about taking actions that could determine the result of an election, which lay outside the judicial power.

The court also ordered a manual recount for all the 60, undervotes cast in the state but failed to specify the criteria by which those votes would be counted as having been made for Bush or Gore. The canvassing boards of each county were free to determine their own criteria. Meanwhile, Bush had asked the U. Supreme Court to review the Florida Supreme Court's decision extending the deadline by which the counties had to submit their final counts. On December 4 the U.

Supreme Court vacated the state supreme court's decision, remanding the case so the Florida high court could clarify the grounds of its decision. The U. Supreme Court expressed concerns that the Florida Supreme Court had usurped the state legislature's authority to determine the manner in which a state's presidential electors are appointed for the electoral college , an authority conferred by Article II of the federal Constitution.

Five days later the U. Supreme Court, again at Bush's request, stayed the Florida State Supreme Court's decision ordering a statewide hand recount of the undervote, pending further review of that decision by the nation's high court. After further review, the U.

Supreme Court announced its decision on December 12, The Court reversed the Florida Supreme Court's decision ordering a statewide hand recount, declaring that the order violated Florida voters' right to equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. The Florida Supreme Court had provided the canvassing boards with no uniform standards to evaluate the ballots cast by Florida voters. To the contrary, the U. Supreme Court observed, "standards for accepting or rejecting contested ballots might vary not only from county to county but indeed within a single county from one recount team to another.

Broward County, by contrast, used a more forgiving standard throughout its entire recount process and uncovered almost three times as many new votes as Palm Beach County, a result "markedly disproportionate" to the difference in population between the counties," the Court said. The equal protection problems arising from the absence of uniform standards in evaluating a chad's status primarily affected the undervotes, or those ballots in which the vote tabulating machines detected that no vote for the presidency had been cast.

But the Court said there was also an equal protection problem with the overvotes, or those votes in which the ballot reflected more than one vote for the presidency. Voters who marked their ballot in a way that was not readable by the machine the undervotes stood to have their votes counted through the manual recount process, while those who marked two candidates in a way that was discernable by the machine would not have had their votes counted, even if a manual examination of the ballot would reveal the voter's intent, because the Florida Supreme Court excluded the overvote from the statewide recount it had ordered.

While seven justices agreed that the court-ordered, statewide recount violated the Equal Protection Clause, only five justices agreed on the remedy. Networks initially projected Gore the winner in Florida, but later they declared that Bush had opened an insurmountable lead. Fewer than votes separated the candidates, and that margin appeared to be narrowing. Around am , Gore called a stunned Bush to retract his concession.

According to Florida law, a machine recount of all votes cast was required because the margin of victory was less than 0. In this race, the gap appeared to be roughly 0. Both campaigns immediately dispatched teams of lawyers to Florida. As court challenges were issued over the legality of hand recounts in select counties, news stories were filled with the arcane vocabulary of the election judge. Also at issue was the so-called butterfly ballot design used in Palm Beach county, which caused confusion among some Gore voters—prompting them to inadvertently cast their votes for third-party candidate Pat Buchanan , who received some 3, some 20 percent of his total votes statewide.

In the month following the election, some 50 individual suits were filed concerning the various counts, recounts, and certification deadlines. On December 8, in a 4—3 decision, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that manual recounts should continue in all counties where a statistically significant number of undervotes were observed for the office of president. The Bush campaign immediately filed suit, and the U.

Supreme Court issued a writ of certiorari to take up the case the following day.

On this day, Bush v. Gore settles 2000 presidential race

Bush v. Gore: The Question of Legitimacy [Bruce Ackerman] on ebimutijymyj.tk * FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. The Supreme Court's intervention in the. The Supreme Court's intervention in the election will shape American law and democracy long after George W. Bush has left the White House. This vitally.

On December 9, in a 5—4 decision, the U. The decision of the majority was heavily criticized by the minority. Dissenting justices wrote that the recount process, while flawed, should be allowed to proceed, on the grounds that constitutional protection of each vote should not be subject to a timeline. Article Media. Info Print Cite. Submit Feedback. Thank you for your feedback. See Article History. Start your free trial today for unlimited access to Britannica. Learn More in these related Britannica articles:. In Bush v. Bush and Al Gore, he issued a passionate yet precise dissent.

He argued that, by failing to refuse the case under the rubric of…. History at your fingertips.