HANGING CHADS: Recounting Votes in 2000, Supremes Made the Call

The people who refused to accept the results of the 2016 election are the ones now lecturing patriots on accepting the results of the 2020 election. So, why hasn’t former President Al Gore weighed in?

For those who remember the presidential election of 2000, Al Gore (D) received 271 electoral votes to George Bush’s (R) 242; Green Party candidate Ralph Nader received 2,882,728 votes, but no Electoral Votes. Al Gore was declared the winner. For 36 days Gore enjoyed the attention, so what happened?

It might all have come down to the three young lawyers leading the investigation for Bush.

Election night, November 7, 2000, news media announced that the state of Florida awarded its 25 electoral votes to Al Gore. But it seems their call had been premature.

Andrew E. Busch, professor of government at Claremont McKenna College, says as votes were counted and Bush’s lead grew, TV networks retracted their premature call of Gore, instead giving the state to Bush. Gore conceded and then rescinded his concession upon finding out that the two were separated by 537 votes. The race was too close to call.

“When the lead shrank to about 2,000 votes in the early hours of the morning, TV reversed again, rescinded the call for Bush, and declared Florida as yet undetermined,” he says. “The initial problem was failure of the exit polls, for which they later overcompensated.”

The New York Post proclaimed Texas Gov. George W. Bush the winner of the presidential election, while the New York Daily News was more circumspect in their front page assessment which hit the newsstands the morning after the presidential election November 8, 2000. Henny Ray Abrams/AFP/Getty Images

Then the recounts began amid accusations of voter fraud, voter suppression and the now infamous “hanging chads”.

The ballots were at issue because the visually-confusing paper punch-card “butterfly ballot,” in which two columns of candidate names were separated by a middle column with marks to be punched through, was blamed for some Gore votes going to Pat Buchanan due to a misalignment of the names and marks.

At issue: Some holes were not completely punched out of the ballots. “A chad that was not punched out all the way—i.e. was still hanging by one, two or even three corners to the ballot—was called a ‘hanging chad.’” Busch says. “Election officials had to devise standards by which to count the ballots with hanging chads. Do you count it as a valid vote as long as there is some evidence that a voter tried to cast a vote? Do you only count it if three of the four corners are knocked out? Something in between? No consistent standard was developed, which was a key issue in Bush v. Gore.”

 

“When an election is this close, and closely fought, a recount along these timelines is to be expected,” says Rick Hasen, professor of law and political science at the University of California, Irvine. “Florida in 2000 took so long because of multiple legal challenges, stops and starts to the recount that carried it beyond the norm.”

Several weeks passed with no clear winner, so officials decided to conduct an electronic recount, in which ballots were re-fed into the same voting machines, but Gore asked for a hand recount.

“There was much squabbling about when, how, and whether to do such hand recounts,” according to The Voting Wars. “One law firm alone eventually handled forty election-related lawsuits for the Florida secretary of state.”

While those counting the votes tried to ascertain the intent of the voters, after lawsuits, challenges and recounts, the Florida Supreme Court ordered a recount of undervotes in all of Florida’s 67 counties. Bush quickly appealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

According to Busch, the Supreme Court admonished the Florida Supreme Court for the mess that was made of Florida’s election and sent the case back by a 9-0 vote.

The Florida Supreme Court ignored the high court’s warning and pressed forward with its call for a recount, and the case was returned to the U.S. Supreme Court. This move put Florida election system under the microscope from voting machines, to voter lists, to the system itself.

“At that point there were actually two key votes,” Hasen says. “The first was a 7-2 determination that the Florida recount, as it was being conducted, was unconstitutional on the grounds that there were no clear standards that were being applied consistently to all ballots. Then, by a 5-4 vote, the court declared that time had run out to devise a remedy. That stopped the process, with Bush ahead.”

The decision resulted in one of the most controversial Supreme Court decisions in American history. With the Florida win, Bush led Gore in electoral votes nationally 271-266, and, out of legal options, Gore conceded.

By the way, do you know who the three lawyers leading the investigation were?

So why are all of the Democrats upset that President Trump is not conceding the election to Sleepy Joe Biden?

“I caught the Swamp,” says President Trump. “I caught them all.”

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