US elections

Bush vs Gore in 2000: Five weeks of high drama

Agence France-Presse, Agence France-Presse
Bush vs Gore in 2000: Five weeks of high drama

(FILES) In this file photo taken on October 02, 2000 Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush and Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore move to their spots to begin their 03 October, 2000, debate at the University of Massachusetts-Boston. - In the 2000 US elections it took 36 days of high-stakes legal wrangling and a Supreme Court ruling to give George W. Bush the presidency over Al Gore. The five-week drama held the country in suspense as votes in Florida were counted and recounted exposing issues with counting machines, badly punched voting cards and irregularities in postal voting. (Photo by JOHN MOTTERN / AFP)

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Will Trump vs Biden repeat Bush vs Gore?

Donald Trump said Wednesday, November 4, he will go to the Supreme Court to dispute the US election count.

If he does, it could turn out to be only the second time in history that the court has decided the winner. In 2000, George W. Bush only beat Democrat Al Gore after 5 weeks of legal battles over recounts and “hanging chad” votes.

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HIGHLIGHTS AND RESULTS: Trump vs Biden – US presidential election 2020

HIGHLIGHTS AND RESULTS: Trump vs Biden – US presidential election 2020
All eyes on Florida

On election day, November 7, 2000, polls have Republican candidate Bush, governor of Texas, leading Democratic vice president Gore by a whisker.

As the night develops, tensions rise as several states report very tight results. 

Television networks declare Gore the winner in Florida only to backtrack soon after, judging it too close to call. 

A few hours later they call Florida again, giving the victory to Bush, which means he wins the presidency.

Gore calls Bush to concede.

But then the networks backtrack a second time, and Gore calls Bush again to withdraw his concession.

The Florida results are in limbo. The two candidates are separated by less than 0.5% of votes, forcing a machine recount of all the punch-card ballots.

Several irregularities are exposed in the state, which is governed by Bush’s brother Jeb. 

‘Hanging chads’

On November 9, Gore calls for a manual recount in 4 strongly Democratic counties, including Palm Beach. Bush appeals, but it is dismissed by a federal judge.

The legal battle begins in earnest. Lawyers arrive en masse in Florida. 

In the spotlight: the punch machines used in Palm Beach County to perforate the ballot paper. They show a rate of error too high for such a close vote.

Counting machines rejected thousands of ballots often due to machine malfunction or because voters failed to fully puncture the mark next to their chosen candidate, leaving only a “pregnant chad,” or partially perforated it, leaving a “hanging chad.”

Bush’s advisers slam irregularities in the counting, claiming the Democrats are trying to invalidate 25,000 postal votes from two Republican counties over a technicality.

On November 26, Florida declares Bush the winner, with 537 more votes. Gore contests the result, arguing thousands of votes have not been counted. 

On December 8, Florida’s Supreme Court agrees with Gore and orders a manual recount of 45,000 ballots that were rejected by the machines.

Supreme Court decides

On December 12, the US Supreme Court steps in for the first time ever in a presidential election.

In a landmark judgement it rejects Florida’s recount and in doing so effectively shuts the door on Gore’s quest for the presidency.

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Why Bush vs Gore still matters in 2020

Why Bush vs Gore still matters in 2020

“Although we may never know with complete certainty the identity of the winner… the identity of the loser is perfectly clear,” writes Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens in a dissenting opinion.

“It is the nation’s confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law.”

On December 18, Bush is elected the 43rd US president by the electoral college, with 271 of the 270 required votes, although Gore won the popular vote. 

Civil rights leader Jesse Jackson says the election was “stolen.” – Rappler.com

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