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Presidential Election 2000


The 2000 presidential election between the Republican ticket of George W. Bush and Richard Cheney and the Democratic slate of Albert Gore, Jr., and Joseph Lieberman resulted in the most bizarre vote count in American history.

Butterfly ballotFlorida recountAfter initially conceding the election early in the morning, Vice President Gore rescinded the concession after late returns showed the results narrowing in Florida. The Democrats then sought court action mandating a ballot recount in counties where irregularities were claimed in the counting of the ballots, particularly the failure to count votes where ballots were punched only partly through to indicate a candidate choice, the so-called "hanging chads". Democrats also complained that confusion over the "butterfly ballot" used in Palm Beach and Dade Counties caused many Gore-Lieberman supporters to mistakenly vote in the wrong column due to the confusing ballot layout.

On November 21, the Supreme Court of Florida ruled that manual recounts could continue and that the totals must be included in the final results, and set November 26-27 as the deadline for certifying the election. After granting the Bush campaign Petition for a Writ of Certiorari, on December 4 the United States Supreme Court, in Bush v. Palm Beach County Canvassing Board, vacated the Florida Supreme Court decision and remanded the case for clarification by the Florida Supreme Court of the legal basis for its November 21 decision on recount deadlines. In 4-3 split decision released on December 8, the Florida Supreme Court ruled for the Gore-Lieberman campaign, ordering a statewide manual recount of undervotes to begin and adding 383 votes to the Democratic total. The Court directed that the recounts continue to ascertain whether a vote should be counted as a "legal" vote if there is a "clear indication of the intent of the voter." The Bush-Cheney campaign then sought stays of this decision before the Florida Supreme Court, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court and additionally petitioned for certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court requesting that the Court exercise its discretionary authority to hear an appeal of the Florida decision.

The U.S. Supreme Court granted the request to hear the case, and reversed the Florida Supreme Court order of December 8 in its decision released December 12. In a 7 to 2 vote, the Court held that the Florida Supreme Court improperly established new standards for resolving Presidential election contests, thereby violating Article II, section 1, clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution, and that the state Supreme Court's order directing manual recounts without specific standards on how to review the ballots violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. The Court further held, by a 5 to 4 majority, that Federal election law specified a December 12 deadline for states to certify their winners, and that accordingly it was too late to allow any statewide recount remedy to proceed, even if the recount proceeded under the original standard. On December 18, the Electoral College met, casting 271 votes for George W. Bush and Richard Cheney and 266 votes for Albert Gore and Joseph Lieberman; the final popular vote total was 50,996,582 votes for the Democratic ticket and 50,456,062 votes for the Republicans. On January 6, with Vice President Gore presiding over a joint session of the Congress, the Electoral College votes were officially counted and Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney were declared as the new president and vice president.

Resources

Federal Election Commission

U.S. Electoral College >> National Archives and Records Administration

U.S. Supreme Court

Election 2000 Archive >> CNN/AllPolitics.com

Campaign 2000 >> C-Span.org

Educational Tools

Lesson Plan: Analysis of a historic presidential election >> CNN.com

Lesson Plan: Voting Technology >> University of Michigan

Checks and Balances in the Electoral Process >> USNewsclassroom.com

Inauguration 2001: Steps in Selecting a President >> PBS.org

Lesson Plans, November 2000 >> Teachworld.com