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Hotly contested elections are certainly nothing new in American politics. This year’s election is no different. Nevertheless, there is perhaps no election in recent memory that stirred up such intense debate — both political and legal — as the 2000 election between George W. Bush and Al Gore.
On election day, Nov. 7, 2000, the race was too close to call. By the following day, every state save Florida had determined its results, but neither candidate had secured enough electoral votes to take the presidency.
Florida’s preliminary tally indicated that Bush had beaten Gore by a margin of less than 0.5%. This triggered a recount under Florida state law. At that point, problems with Florida’s punch-card ballot became apparent. Over 150,000 ballots were rejected by Florida’s machines for various reasons, and a hand recount of the rejected ballots began.
It quickly became apparent, however, that that there was widespread disagreement over how those ballots should be interpreted from one county to the next.
Protracted litigation worked its way through the Florida courts, but the matter was finally decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in Bush v. Gore, 531 U.S. 98 (2000). Bush was ultimately certified as the winner, based on Florida’s initial results. But the case remains controversial for its implications about judicial power and the role of the Supreme Court in the electoral process.