December 12th 2000: Bush v. Gore
On this day in 2000, the United States Supreme Court released its decision in the landmark case of Bush v. Gore. The 2000 Presidential election between Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Al Gore was one of the closest in recent memory. The candidate who would win the election and become President of the United States by reaching the required 270 Electoral College votes came down to the state of Florida. News broadcasters, using exit poll results, initially declared the state for Gore, but were forced to later retract this when the votes were counted and it appeared that Bush had a narrow lead. A mandatory machine recount reduced Bush’s lead to only a few hundred votes, but Gore called for a hand recount in four key counties. However, these further recounts were protested by the Bush camp, and the case was sent to the Supreme Court of the United States. The Court, in a narrow 5-4 decision, ruled the recount unconstitutional and thus handed the state and the presidency to Bush. Had the recount gone ahead, and, crucially, if ballots incorrectly punched had been accepted, it is likely that Gore would have won the presidency. The case was argued before the Court by Theodore Olson for Bush and David Boies for Gore, who went on to unite to successfully argue for the unconstitutionality of California’s anti-gay marriage Proposition 8. The 2000 election remains the most controversial incident in modern American electoral history. Bush’s slim majority of 271 Electoral College votes, and the fact that Gore actually won the popular vote by 543,895 votes, leads many to call for the abolition of the Electoral College and brand Bush’s election as illegitmate. This is coupled with complaints against the partisanship of the Supreme Court, as the justices were split 5-4 between the conservatives and liberals. A few years later, stanch conservative justice Antonin Scalia famously responded to a question about Bush v. Gore by declaring: “Get over it!”.
15 years ago today