On December 13, 2000, Republican George W. Bush claimed the presidency 36 days after Election Day when a recount of ballots in Florida was halted. Here are 5 things you may not know about this hotly contested presidential election...
The Vote Was Incredibly Close Viewers on election night in the presidential race between Republican George Bush and Democrat Al Gore realized it was a tight race as the lead seesawed between both candidates throughout the night. The winner hinged on which candidate took Florida and its 29 electoral votes. When the results came in the following morning, it was apparent that both candidates had taken 49 percent out of the six million votes cast in Florida. However, the margin was so small, with Bush leading by less than 1,500 votes, the election would turn into a battle for the presidency.
The First Recount Was by Machine Florida state law required a machine recount if the victory margin by a candidate was less than 0.5 percent, so a recount was conducted. It took about 2 ½ days. In the recount, Bush’s lead had shrunk to 327 votes. This ended up in the call for an additional recount.
A Hand Recount Was Requested by Gore Since the margin of victory had narrowed even more, Florida law allowed Gore to request a manual recount – and he did. Gore requested that a manual recount be conducted in four traditionally blue-leaning Florida counties – three in South Florida and one in Central Florida.The counties began to fulfill his request, but when concerns grew over whether election officials would be able to meet deadlines and whether late filings from some of those counties should be accepted, then-Secretary of State Katherine Harris said she could not find reason as to why they should. Harris then declared Bush the winner in Florida. But the fight still wasn’t over.
Balloting Methods Made the Situation Worse The Florida Supreme Court granted a recount of about 70,000 of the ballots that were considered questionable after it was requested by Gore. The problem was the methods of balloting where some counties used a hole punch where the machine wouldn’t count the ballot if it wasn’t properly punched. About 29,000 voter ballots had been discarded in Broward County alone; however, the United States Supreme Court stopped the recount, which angered Gore supporters because the Supreme Court vote was split along party lines.
The Election Results Might Have Been Different But for Hanging Chads A flaw in the design of some ballots that were perforated made it hard for machines to read because the holes were incomplete, resulting in hanging chads. However, the ruling by the Supreme Court denied making a hand count of these ballots. There were arguments among legal authorities that the Supreme Court had overstepped its jurisdiction by ruling on election voting, while others pointed out that it showed needed election reform in Florida.