A Look Back at the 2000 U.S. Presidential Election

There have been 55 Presidential elections in United States history, but none have been more controversial than in 2000. Democratic Vice-President Al Gore versus Republican George W. Bush was the major match-up. There was no such thing as Islamic fundamentalism striking American soil and the economy was about to relax after years of prosperity. That November was a source of confusion and anger.

The 2000 election took place on Tuesday, November 7th but the true and final results wouldn’t be known for over a month later. Right as the results began coming in, there was a sense of confusion. As the popular vote was tallied up, Democratic-nominee Al Gore received the most votes or 48.38% while Republican-nominee George W. Bush got 47.87% . Independent Ralph Nader, of the Green Party, received 2.73% of the popular vote. However, the United States Presidency is decided with the Electoral College, which meant Gore was not in the clear. That night, all but three states were decided with Gore having 255 and Bush having 246, the amount needed to win the election is 270. The three states in question were New Mexico (5 electoral votes), Oregon (7) and Florida (25). The election came down to Florida, as it would give either candidate enough electoral votes to win.

On election night, the national television news networks were as confused as anyone. Before the polls were closed they announced Al Gore had won the state of Florida, thus, winning the entire election. Soon thereafter, the television networks apologized for their mishap and called the Florida vote “too close to call.” The networks would flip-flop a few times over the following 12 hours between giving the state to Gore and recognizing the vote as simply too close. Major national networks such as CBS, NBC, FOX and ABC had made drastic mistakes that night in reporting the results.

The truth of the results in Florida is that they were so close and narrow that legally, a definitive decision could not have been made so soon. With the state ruled “too close to call” after polls were closed, Florida ruled to begin a state recount of the votes. Then Gore challenged some of the Florida results specifically and called for more recounts. The final vote for the state of Florida gave the election to Bush who had just a 537-vote advantage in the state. Bush didn’t want the recounts to happen and took the case to court but the Florida Supreme Court ruled in favor of the recounts. In the weeks following the November 7th election night, lawsuits were filed and the state of Florida was in a roaring sense of confusion.

In the month after the election, reports surfaced about a complete failure in Florida as far as handling the voting. The infamous “butterfly ballot” was a source of controversy as many people whose intensions were to vote for Gore, instead, voted for Reform-candidate Pat Buchanon. The South Florida Sun Sentinel reported one voter as saying, “It was so hard to tell who and what you were voting for. I couldn’t figure it out, and I have a doctorate”. The equally infamous “chads” played and equally annoying role in the election. A “chad” is the tiny piece of paper that is punched from a ballot and should create a hole. In some counties, the form of voting was to punch a hole into a card for the person/group you want to vote for. Instead, some people had difficulty in following the directions and either punched the wrong hole or multiple holes. The week’s worth of recounts saw staffers inspect hundreds of tiny pieces of paper to search for the intentions of voters. In some cases, votes were just disqualified if they could not be figured out.

Absentee ballots, which allow people who are away from their designated voting area to send in their vote through the mail, were another source of confusion. Some ballots were delayed in the mail system and by the time they were delivered, were disqualified for being late. In some cases, ballots were designated as being from ex-convicts (who lose their right to vote) and were automatically disqualified.

In the end, it was the United States Supreme Court who ended the election fiasco in 2000. December 9th, the Supreme Court granted Bush’s plea for an immediate hearing. Gore was successful in having the state of Florida conduct recounts of certain districts but Bush went to the top to stop it. The Supreme Court made an unprecedented decision in interceding in Florida’s voting regulations and voted 5-4 in the case of Bush v. Gore to stop the recount, giving the election to Bush. To this day, many people believe the Supreme Court handed the Presidency to Bush and had they not interfered, Al Gore would have become the 43rd President of the United States. The debate comes from the Courts decision. Laurence Tribe wrote in the Constitutional Commentary, “that Bushv. Gore presented a political question that most likely never should have been decidedâÂ?¦by a federal court.” Each state is in control of their own elections but the Supreme Court made a drastic decision in stepping in and stopping Florida’s recounts.

After the Supreme Court made their decision, Al Gore understood time had run its course. The night after the decision, Gore conceded the election to Bush and in an attempt to unite the nation after such a long and tiring process said, “This is America, and we put country before party.”

The 2000 United States Presidential election will be remembered forever for being the first to be decided nearly five weeks after Election Day. Even though he had received less total votes, George W. Bush became the 43rd President of the United States.

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