Election 2000 - What Happened?

The candidate who won the popular vote did not win the election

Al Gore beat George Bush by about 500,000 votes nationwide

Bush, however, won the electoral vote in this bitterly contested election

It all came down…to Florida

The race was so close and they needed Florida’s electoral votes to win the election

Bush won the electoral votes of more states than Al Gore, but most of the states Gore won had larger populations and more electoral votes

When the polls closed…

- Gore had 255 electoral votes
- Bush had 246 electoral votes
- Neither had enough to be declared the winner
- Both need Florida’s 25 votes to put them over the top
- Election was too close to call on Election Day
- Counting continued and it showed Bush had won Florida by fewer than 2000 votes

The Controversy

Florida law required that since the vote was so close it must be recounted.

At the same time voters in Florida’s Palm Beach County filed a lawsuit challenging election results in their county.

-They argued that the design of the county’s ballot confused many voters
-They were especially upset by punchcard and butterfly ballot voting systems
-They charged that some voters who intended to vote for Gore had mistakenly voted for another candidate
-They also argued that new voting machines may have failed to count many ballots in which the holes were not completely punched through
-In other Florida counties, voters challenged the results for other reasons

By November 10 – machine recount of votes in 3 Florida counties had shrunk Bush’s lead. (fewer than 330 votes separated the two candidates)

Lawyers for the Democrats and Republicans asked the courts to step in and decide if the election had been fair.

-Democrats wanted officials to recount the votes in some Florida counties by hand so that officials could determine whether ballots had been fully punched or properly marked
-Republicans opposed recounting the votes by hand, wanted it stopped arguing that it violated Florida election law
-Battle went to the Florida Supreme Court which ruled that recounts by hand were legal (ordered a hand count of nearly 60,000 ballots)
-Bush’s supporters appealed this decision…it was December 1st.

The Outcome

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to review the decision of the Florida Supreme Court to allow a hand recount

-This was the first time the Supreme Court had helped decide who would be President
-On December 11th, the justices heard arguments from lawyers for both candidates
-Gore: statewide recount was legal, referred to 10th amendment to the Constitution (this gives states control over the election process)
-Bush: Florida Supreme Court had made new laws allowing new deadlines for votes to be counted
-In a 5 to 4 decision, the justices ruled in favor of Bush and Bush received Florida’s 25 electoral votes to his total (he had 271 now and Gore had 266)

· One elector from DC abstained from voting
· Bush won Florida by a margin of 537 votes out of the nearly 6 million cast in the state
· 5 weeks after Election Day, George W. Bush became the nation’s 43rd President



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