Bush v. Gore
GEORGE W. BUSH, et al., PETITIONERS v. ALBERT GORE, Jr., et al. (Order List:
531 US, Case No: 00-949) was a controversial Supreme Court case heard on 11
December 2000 that some say decided the outcome of the 2000 United States
presidential election between Texas Governor George W. Bush and Vice
President Al Gore. In the end, the court decided a recount of the votes in
Florida was not feasible within the current statute and that, as first
counted, electoral votes from Florida should go to George W. Bush.
The case was first taken up on 1 December after the Bush campaign appealed
to the high court after the Florida Supreme Court's more liberal judges
ordered the recount process in Florida to proceed. On 4 December, the court
nullified the decision of the Florida Supreme Court saying that the court's
decision to bypass state election laws, which stated that results had to be
certified by a certain date, was dubious at best saying that there was
"considerable uncertainty" as to the precise grounds for their ruling.
The decision, handed down around 10pm on 12 December 2000 for the split 5-4
court, was written by Chief Justice William Rehnquist, with Justices Antonin
Scalia and Clarence Thomas concurring and Justices Sandra Day O'Connor and
Anthony Kennedy in the majority. Justices Stephen Breyer, David Souter, Ruth
Bader Ginsburg and John Paul Stevens dissented.
The case determined that the Florida recount was being conducted
unconstitutionally and in the majority opinion noted significant problems in
the uneven way the votes were being recounted. Seven of the nine justices
agreed that the recount was not constitutional but the minority dissented on
the remedy. Ultimately, it was decided no constitutionally valid recount
could be completed by the 12 December deadline set in statute. The court
cited differing vote-counting standards from county to county and the lack
of a single judicial officer to oversee the recount, both of which violated
the equal-protection clause of the United States Constitution.
The case was shrouded in controversy as the majority versus minority opinion
was split along the lines of the more conservative justices voting in favor
of Bush and the more liberal justicies voting in favor of Gore.
Additionally, part of the reason recounts could not be completed was due to
various stoppages ordered by the various branches and levels of the
The minority dissents noted these issues and others including the principle
of fairness, and the conflicting laws which could be interpreted as
invalidating the 12 December deadline. It appears the minority would have
wished to allow the recount to continue up until the college of electors
were mandated to meet on 18 December.