What made the 2000 presidential election so controversial?

Presidency Read more from
Chapter George W. Bush

The election was controversial because Bush was awarded the twenty-five electoral votes from Florida by a decision of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Gore was initially predicted the winner due to exit polling by the media but that was retracted, as poll results showed Bush pulling ahead. The networks then declared Bush the winner, but vote results were still coming from three counties—Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach ñand these counties were expected to vote for Gore. The gap shrunk to just two thousand votes statewide—enough to force a recount. Gore asked for manual hand recounts in four counties—the three mentioned earlier and Volusia county.

Florida’s secretary of state Katherine Harris—a Republican—certified the results on November 14, declaring Bush the winner. Lawsuits erupted over the recounting. Gore wanted the recounting process to continue and the deadline extended; Bush wanted the result declared official.

The Florida Supreme Court ruled in favor of Gore, saying that the recount process deadline should be extended. However, the U.S. Supreme Court effectively decided the election in Bush v. Gore (2000), ruling that the Florida system of counting votes differently in different counties violated the Equal Protection Clause. The result was deemed largely political, as it was decided by a vote of five to four with the five more conservative justices—Chief Justice William Rehnquist, Justice Antonin Scalia, Justice Anthony Kennedy, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, and Justice Clarence Thomas—voting for Bush. The four more liberal judges—Justice John Paul Stevens, and Associate Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, and David Souter—voted for Gore.


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