Bush vs. Gore - best background?

Had a discussion the other day about the election of 2002. Gave my opinion that Bush had stolen the election. Was asked for some facts and had to admit I can’t remember most of the gory details!

Where can I find the most non-partisan recap of this fiasco? I formed my opinion based on news stories of the time and since I’ve grown to regard Bush as the epitome of all evil, I’m not very neutral on any subject involving him.

Try RationalWiki:

in today’s news

Sandra Day O’Connor’s second thoughts on the 2000 Bush v. Gore decision



She appears to be having “second thoughts” about taking the case at all, about the political impact thereof – but not, so far as I can tell here, about the legal reasoning of the decision.

“Bush stole the election”? Please explain why you think that, as there has never been one shred of evidence Bush stole the election. The 2000 Florida Presidential election was very close and how it should have been handled afterward is extremely contentious, but aside from the complaints one hears in every election in my lifetime where a few voters claim that polls closed early or whatever there’s no real evidence anyone did anything criminal in Florida in 2000. There are probably very low-level violations of election law in every election, but there has never been one shred of evidence President Bush directed illegal activity in Florida in 2000 to secure his election.

Unlike BrainGlutton who posted a link to an ideological screed in what is supposed to be an offshoot of Great Debates, I’ll give you probably the only neutral rundown of the events in Florida 2000 that you would receive on this message board. I will [bracket] my opinions to differentiate from neutral retelling:

1.The night of the election Bush takes an early, and very big lead in Florida (100,000) votes. Some networks call Florida, and the Presidency, for Bush. Gore calls Bush to concede.

  1. As the night wears on, the three counties where we’re still waiting on results are Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach, are very heavily Democratic. As their votes come in, the margin for Bush shrinks to less than 2,000. The networks retract their previous calling of the Florida election for Bush, and Gore retracts his private concession he made to Bush.

  2. At the end of the vote counting, Bush has won Florida by a margin of less than 2,000 votes. Under Florida state law that requires an automatic machine recount. The initial machine recount narrows the margin of victory for Bush in Florida to something like 314. Later, some overseas military absentee ballots come in and the margin increases to around 900.

  3. Under Florida State law, in the scenario then present, a candidate had the right to request hand recounts in specific counties. [In my opinion this is retarded election law. If, after a machine recount, the margin has gotten so small why would you let candidates pick and choose hand recounts in the counties where it is most likely to be to their advantage? What you should instead do is require a state wide hand recount automatically if, after a machine recount, the margin is below some threshold.]

Gore requests hand recounts in Miami-Dade, Broward, Volusia, and Palm Beach counties.

  1. In response to Gore’s request, Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris announces that the statutory deadline for amended county returns is November 14th, and she will not accept the results from those counties after that date. This is logistically impossible, three of the counties resubmit their original results and Palm Beach tries to process the hand recount and fails to finish in time.

Katherine Harris gets a lot of flak, but it’s hard to argue that 5 PM on November 14th was not the statutory deadline–it was. However the Palm Beach County Canvassing Board sued Katherine Harris to obtain an extension to the filing deadline in Florida Supreme Court. They won the suit, and had the deadline extended to 12/26. [I generally agree the deadline should have been extended but disagree with just recounting a few heavily Democratic counties, they should have ordered a full statewide recount.]

  1. In response to the extended deadline, Bush’s legal team appeals the decision of the Palm Beach County Canvassing Board to the U.S. Supreme Court (Bush v. Palm Beach County Canvassing Board), the U.S. Supreme Court finds constitutional error under both the United States and Florida Constitutions as to how the Florida Supreme Court has ruled. So on 12/1/2000, the Supreme Court vacated the Florida court’s decision. [I am mostly in agreement with how SCOTUS ruled in this case.]

  2. In response to having its earlier ruling vacated by the SCOTUS, the Florida Supreme in another ruling orders a statewide manual recount. [I think this was the right decision, and should have been the first decision of the Florida Supreme Court.] This results in the case of Bush v. Gore at the U.S. Supreme Court, the definitive legal decision on this matter.

  3. In Bush v. Gore, the SCOTUS basically says all counting has to stop because excessive recounts destroy the physical integrity of the ballots and cause irreparable harm to one party (Bush.) The results stand as they were, Bush wins Florida by 500 some votes and the Presidency.

(End of timeline.)

Personally I agreed with most of the legal happenings until the final ruling. I agree that excessive handling of the ballots does degrade them and call into question the validity of the votes, but I think that practical concern could have been alleviated by requiring a hand recount in every county in Florida that had not already done a hand recount. In counties where the hand recount was in various states of processing, require that only ballots not already recounted by hand be subjected to a hand recount. All ballots already recounted by hand subject them to review by neutral parties (also in this ruling insure a consistent statewide standard for recounts), and if any ballot is considered to be degraded by 2 out of 3 neutral observers the ballot must be permanently destroyed and struck from the voting totals.

However at the end of the day it’s hard for me to feel there was a great injustice. It was a very, very close election. The punch-chad type of ballot means that in fact, having already subjected some of these ballots to machine recounts it’s quite possible some number of ballots were damaged in such a way as to alter how they would be counted. Some ballots had already been handled heavily. By the time a consortium of media outlets investigated all of the ballots they also had been handled a good bit. I do not actually know, with an election so close, that it’s ever going to be easy to say who should or should not have won. The consortium recount had to apply subjective standards and the problem with a ballot is they are never supposed to be subjectively marked. They found in two out of three standards used in their hand recount, Gore would have won by a bit over 100 votes, and in one standard Bush would have won. That’s hard for a lot of Democrats to swallow, but I don’t really know that such an extremely close vote can be properly handled given the ballots Florida used.

It was a good reason to have modernized, standardized ballot systems.

I actually made a minor but important mistake in my timeline.

The Supreme Court said in an initial order stopping the statewide recount ordered by the Florida Supreme Court that the count must immediately stop while SCOTUS considers Bush v. Gore as the principle of “count first, determine the legality after” is inimical to democratic principles and because counting of the physical ballots causes irreparable harm by degrading the physical ballot itself.

In Bush v. Gore they actually ruled essentially (and I’m not good at summarizing SCOTUS decisions) that the recount process as it was being done violated the Equal Protection clause and that no viable alternative could possibly be developed prior to the deadline in U.S. Code for resolving controversy in the selection of electors. Basically ending the recount and giving the election to Bush.

Or, even, knew what was going on at the time . . .

A complete history should also mention the butterfly ballot fiasco: Some counties in Florida were using a confusing ballot design that resulted in some votes intended for Gore instead being cast for Pat Buchannon. It’s unknown exactly how many this was (after all, some people surely intended to actually vote for Buchannon), but any reasonable estimate of the number makes it enough, to a very high degree of confidence, that Gore would have won if people had voted how they had intended.

I’d call that a steal, but to each his own.

It’s true that Bush didn’t have his fingerprints on that, but Team Bush did have a hand in delaying tactics like the Brooks Brothers Riot that shut down the recount in Miami-Dade County. The election may have been stolen for them by others, but they were trying to steal it themselves as well.

I’d add a
0. Gore took an early lead in Florida - some networks called Florida, and the Presidency, for Gore. Bush’s camp (Rove) says they have some information that Bush is going to come back. Kind of like Ohio this time, but Rove was right.

That made some people suspicious.

I hated Bush, but just about every way it went down, it would have been Bush’s.

If the recount had happened, bush probably would have won. If the election had gone to the house of representatives (because nobody had a majority of electors), Bush would have won. No recount, and Bush won.

If I ever have a time machine, I’m going back to late October 2000, flying to Palm Beach County, and explaining to all the old Jews that the third hole is the hole for Gore, and the second hole is actually a vote for Buchanan. Because that’s the only way I see Gore winning Florida and the presidency.

Let’s not forget to give W’s brother all due credit.

George W. Bush is so powerful he controlled the Supreme Court as Governor of Texas? That’s what your argument boils down to…and in fact he staged the Florida election such that he knew it’d go to the Supreme Court (which he controlled, and which also ruled on cases like Padilla etc that were not exactly pro-Bush.)

Thanks for playing, though.

Please disregard the 2nd and 3rd links, as one is to Salon (extremely leftist biased news rag), and the other to a site of such ridiculously poor validity even my long deceased grandmother would laugh at it.

There’s no real evidence Jeb Bush acted in a criminal way to deny anyone a vote. Some Democrats think you should never remove names from voter rolls, probably the same ones who wrote the Alabama Constitution and used to win election by having 5,000 long dead black people vote for them.

No matter which way you slice it, the election results in Florida were practically a tie. A coin flip really. Statistically speaking, there was just no way to know who “actually” won Florida. The amount of votes Bush “won” the state by was an order of magnitude (or two?) less than the number of mis-cast, unreadable, or otherwise wrongly-voted votes.

That being said, the butterfly ballot absolutely cost Gore the election and he would have won easily if the estimated percentage of accidental votes for Buchanan is anywhere near accurate (and there’s no reason to doubt them). So it’s kind of fitting that we got a buffoon for president because the the public at large are buffoons who can’t read a damn ballot and vote correctly. Or they over vote. Or they write in a candidate’s name who is already on the ballot and mark both. Or whatever.

Thanks for all the thoughtful replies. My personal bias against Bush had him taking a much more active role in this fiasco. I think that drewtwo99 summed it up pretty well

Everything that ensued was just icing on the cake.

This is pretty much my view, minus the criticism of Bush. The election was so close the type of ballot being used basically meant there was no real way to resolve it. The person who won the initial count and the statewide machine recount was the one becoming President, and it happened to be Bush. He basically got lucky.

The benign view of the SCOTUS ruling is they felt the same way, and feared the implications of the judicial branch taking action that would basically reverse two statewide counts that were done under a uniform manner by forcing what would have been a subjective review (even if they made sure every county reviewed ballots in the same way, which it wasn’t immediately apparent was going to happen.)

The malicious view is five of them were conservatives and thus chose to make sure a Republican won the White House.

I don’t think Bush stole the presidency, but I do believe the RNC did.

I don’t think Bush actively stole the election, but the system cheated Gore. Given the size of the state and the closeness of the result, the true intent of the electorate can’t be said with any certainty. They flipped a coin, and it landed on edge. Gore could have made Florida irrelevant by winning his own freaking home state so between his lackluster campaign and his pitiful debate performances, the guy didn’t deserve to win. But had the butterfly ballot not confused so many voters, he would have won with ease. That being said, the Supreme Court disgraced itself by essentially voting along party lines to hand Bush the White House. Katherine Harris deserves special scorn for her gleeful perfomance in announcing the result and for making every decision in Bush’s favor. She was supposed to be a referee, not a cheerleader. I think it’s far more accuate to say the 2004 was stolen for Bush with the shameful behavior of the Ohio Secretary of State, and I personally don’t believe Bush won either election.

The problem is that both Pubs and Dems were in the right and in the wrong.

When Katherine Harris declared a deadline and refused to extend it, she was in the right as statutorily it is her decision whether or not to extend the deadline. Then again, Gore selectively picks handcounts in Dem heavy areas giving him an advantage. Both were perfectly legal under the law but both side were taking advantage of stupid laws. When Bush v. Gore came out, they agreed that Florida’s Supreme Court erred in extending this deadline pass the 14th as creating new law. SCOTUS would have had an easy out with this by saying that the returns were certified in accordance with state law* and it is over - Bush wins.

When it came time for Bush v. Gore, one point that is almost never discussed (although I did start a thread on it some time back) is how partisan the 4 Gore supporters were. Their dissent fails at any pretention of legal theory. The one ruling that everyone EXCEPT Ginsburg & Stevens agreed with was that you could not have different standards in different counties. Their dissent on this issue alone should tell you what their mindset was. The problem I have with the ruling is that with everything to consider, SCOTUS picked Florida’s legislature’s desire to have returns certified by the Safe Harbor deadline as the overriding one. What would be interesting is if the returns were already certified and sent by December 12th, what if there had been a second slate of electors or even if Florida courts could order a second slate of electors sent.
*While state law can normally be reviewed by the state’s SC, the constitutional role of state legislatures in determining how to select presidential electors would allow SCOTUS to overrule SCOFla even if they were correct in throwing out the law for state/Congrssional elections.

Don’t forget Floridians unable to punch a preperforated hole in paper with a metal stylus.