Hypothetical question about recounts in the 2000 presidential election

Imagine that the 2000 election had indeed advanced to the stage of being decided by recounts and more recounts.
If there had been multiple machine recounts - half of them showing Bush winning and half of them showing Gore winning - and also multiple manual recounts - again, half of them indicating a Bush victory and half of them indicating a Gore victory - how would the courts or election commissions have decided which results to use as valid?

Also, if the election had remained undecided for many months, would Bill Clinton get to remain incumbent president until the election was decided - let’s say, the middle of 2001? Is it Constitutional for a sitting president to stay in office for longer than 8 years for such a reason?

If Florida’s electors don’t vote, then the house of reps would vote on the new President because neither would have a majority.

Yep, and no, Clinton would not have remained President. It’s pretty specifically defined how long a President’s term is. Once it’s up, he’d be out.

Then who’d be interim President if neither Bush nor Gore had been certified the victor yet?

Florida’s electors wouldn’t vote and so Gore would win.

As for recounts, the last one is the “correct” one, even though it’s not any more reliable than the recounts before it. But there wouldn’t have been multiple recounts because there wouldn’t have been time, so Florida wouldn’t have been able to vote.

Gore wouldn’t have 270 though. If I understand correctly, 270 is needed - even Gore 267, Bush 246 wouldn’t do.

And in the house of representatives, the Republicans held a majority after the 2000 election, right?

Ah, yes, you’re right. So the Republicans would just vote Bush/Cheney in anyway.

Of course, in all likelihood, it wouldn’t have come to that. The Florida legislature likely would have picked the state’s electors, which is what they were on the verge of doing when the Supreme Court ruled.

Is it? The Constitution requires “a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed.” If Florida simply hadn’t had electors, then there would have just been fewer electors appointed, wouldn’t there?

Or does “appointed” refer to the decision of Congress to set the size of the House of Representatives and apportion seats in a certain way?

It would have been the existing Congress that does the voting, not the new members elected in 2000. The federal statute requires the states to report in December, and the official count is in early January, by a joint session of the lame duck Congress. If no-one has a majority of the electors, “the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President.”

Republicans held a majority in both houses in the 105th Congress, so Cheney was a lock. But did they have a majority of the 50 states, since the vote is by state, not individual members? I assume so, since the Republicans normally hold a lot of small states like Wyoming, but is that confirmed?

Yeah, there really was no path to victory for Gore other than to get a successful hand recount. I’m just not sure that any large state can do such a recount in time to certify electors.

That’s now done by the new Congress. The members of the new Congress take office on the 3rd of January, and the electoral votes aren’t counted until the 6th. The beginning of the Congressional term was changed in the 20th Amendment so that there would be a couple of weeks for the new Congress to deal with the presidential election.

Wouldn’t Lieberman have had a shot at being VP if it went to Congress? Especially with Jeffords a possible swing vote?

Yes, and the new Senate was 50-50, so electing a VP at all would have required someone to change sides. (I don’t think the sitting VP has a tie-breaking vote, as it requires a “majority of the whole number” of senators.)

The House was a lock for Bush. If I count this map correctly, Republicans had 28 states to the Democrats’ 18.

My mistake. Thanks for the correction.

The articles on the 1864 election seem to suggest that it is the number of electors actually appointed, not the theoretical number. Both the wiki article and this other article assume that the college was composed solely of northern states who appointed electors, not the total number of electors that could have been appointed by the southern states (who didn’t, obviously, but could have, since in law they were still part of the Union).

The wiki article on the 1860 election gives the number of electors as 303; the article on the 1864 election gives the number as 233.


Interesting article on the powers of the Vice-President when acting as President of the Senate and counting the electoral votes: “How Jefferson Counted Himself In”

I am going to assume that, one way or the other, there would have been a “final result” in Florida before the Electors were forced to vote, and the Florida votes that were cast would have been challenged, in which case, it’s a “best two out of three” of the House (which would have voted for Bush), the Senate (which would have voted for Gore, because the 50-50 tie would have been broken by the sitting VP, which was still Gore until January 20), and “the executive of the state”, which, depending on how you interpret the statement, is either the state’s Secretary of State, or its Governor at the time - Jeb Bush.

As I recall, there were attempts to challenge Florida’s electoral votes anyway, but the law requires that any challenge be made by both one Representative and one Senator, and there was some backroom deal made where if no Democratic Senators objected, then the Democrats would be given some benefit in committee appointments - I think the deal was that, instead of the Republicans having two more Senators per committee than the Democrats, it would be only one. As it turned out, this lasted for about five months, when Jim Jeffords switched from Republican to independent and voted with the Democrats, giving them a 51-49 majority.