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United States presidential election in Florida, 2000

United States presidential election in Florida, 2000

November 7, 2000

Nominee George W. Bush Al Gore
Party Republican Democratic
Home state Texas Tennessee
Running mate Dick Cheney Joe Lieberman
Electoral vote 25 0
Popular vote 2,912,790 2,912,253
Percentage 48.85% 48.84%

County Results

President before election

Bill Clinton

Elected President

George W. Bush

The 2000 United States presidential election in Florida took place on November 7, 2000 as part of the greater 2000 United States presidential election.

Democratic nominee Al Gore, with New Mexico (5), Oregon (7), and Florida (25) too close to call that evening. The arithmetic of the available electoral votes in all three states meant that at that point, the result in Florida was all that mattered, and even when both New Mexico and Oregon were declared in favor of the eventual loser Gore over the following few days, the drama in Florida uniquely dragged out for several weeks before eventually settling the election for the entire nation.

After an intense recount process and the decision of the electoral reform in Florida.

The Florida election saga became an HBO straight-to-TV movie Recount (2008).


  • Campaign 1
  • Recount 2
    • Election night 2.1
    • Recount irregularities 2.2
      • Controversial issues 2.2.1
      • Palm Beach County's butterfly ballots 2.2.2
    • Timeline 2.3
      • Florida Supreme Court appeals 2.3.1
      • U.S. Supreme Court Proceedings 2.3.2
  • Final certified results 3
  • Results breakdown 4
    • By county 4.1
    • By congressional district 4.2
  • Post election studies 5
    • Florida Ballot Project recounts 5.1
    • Media based 5.2
    • Opinion polling on recount 5.3
  • Electors 6
  • Film 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9


Initially Florida had been considered a fertile territory for Republicans. It was governed by

  • BUSH v. GORE
  • Presidential Election Law
  • The Butterfly Ballot Controversy, West Palm Beach, and its impact on the election

External links

  • Ceaser, James W.; Busch, Andrew (2001). The Perfect Tie: The True Story of the 2000 Presidential Election. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield.  
  • Keating, Dan and Balz, Dan. "Florida Recounts Would Have Favored Bush."[1] The Washington Post, published Nov. 12, 2001.
  • See also Category:Books about the United States presidential election, 2000
  1. ^ Marks, Peter (September 20, 2000). "THE 2000 CAMPAIGN: THE AD CAMPAIGN; In Sign Florida Is Now in Play, Bush Increases Buying There". The New York Times. Retrieved May 26, 2010. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ Rosenbaum, David E. (October 21, 2000). "THE 2000 CAMPAIGN: THE VOTERS; A New Respect for Age in Florida". The New York Times. Retrieved May 26, 2010. 
  4. ^ Rosenbaum, David E. (October 26, 2000). "THE 2000 CAMPAIGN: THE VOTERS; Independents and the Elderly Lift Gore in Florida, Poll Says". The New York Times. 
  5. ^ Ceaser & Busch 2001, pp. 252–253
  6. ^ Graham, Tim (November 20, 2000). "TV News in Deep Gumbo". National Review. Media Research Center. Retrieved April 4, 2008. 
  7. ^ Rendall, Steve. Election Night Meltdown, Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting
  8. ^ "Memorable Presidential Elections".  
  9. ^ Palast, Greg. "Florida's flawed "voter-cleansing" program". 
  10. ^ Bonner, Raymond (November 17, 2000). "COUNTING THE VOTE: DUVAL COUNTY; Democrats Rue Ballot Foul-Up In a 2nd County". The New York Times. 
  11. ^ "Panhandle Poll Follow-up: Networks' Wrong Florida Call for Gore Depressed Voter Turnout in Florida's Central Time Zone". John McLaughlin & Associates. December 6, 2000. 
  12. ^ Lott, John R., Jr. (May 8, 2001). "Documenting Unusual Declines in Republican Voting Rates in Florida's Western Panhandle Counties in 2000". University of Maryland Foundation, University of Maryland. 
  13. ^ Battaglio, Stephen. "The Blunder Years", TV Guide, November 1, 2010, Pages 20-21
  14. ^  
  15. ^
  16. ^ Berke, Richard L. (July 15, 2001). "Lieberman Put Democrats In Retreat on Military Vote".  
  17. ^ "NAACP and Florida Voters Reach Agreement with ChoicePoint in Voting Rights Lawsuit: ChoicePoint to Make Donation to NAACP and Reprocess Voter Exception List" (Press release). ChoicePoint. July 2, 2002. Archived from the original on January 8, 2006. 
  18. ^ Boyd, Ralph F. Jr., Assistant  
  19. ^ Palast, Gregory (December 4, 2000). "Florida's flawed "voter-cleansing" program". Secretary of State Katherine Harris hired a firm to vet the rolls for felons, but that may have wrongly kept thousands, particularly blacks, from casting ballots. 
  20. ^ "Seminole Case details". CampaignWatch. 
  21. ^ Lantigua, John (November 28, 2000). "Miami's rent-a-riot". Remember last week's ugly protest of the hand recount? Elián all over? Guess again — Washington GOP operatives were running this circus. 
  22. ^ "Election 2000 Ballot Design: Why Usability Testing Matters". 
  23. ^ Theresa LePore at Notable Names Database
  24. ^ Van Natta Jr, Don; Canedy, Dana (November 9, 2000). "THE 2000 ELECTIONS: THE PALM BEACH BALLOT; Florida Democrats Say Ballot's Design Hurt Gore". The New York Times. 
  25. ^ F.S. Ch. 102.166
  26. ^ F.S. Ch. 102.166 Part 4
  27. ^ F.S. Ch. 102.166 Part 5
  28. ^ 2000 official presidential general election results
  29. ^ Florida Department of State - Division of Elections - November 7, 2000 General Election - Official Results
  30. ^
  31. ^
  32. ^ "Democracy Counts" (PDF). 
  33. ^ "Florida Recounts Would Have Favored Bush". Retrieved 2010-03-10. 
  34. ^ (The American Statistitian, February 2003, Vol. 57, No.1)
  35. ^ "Newspapers' recount shows Bush prevailed". USA Today. May 15, 2001. Retrieved May 26, 2010. 
  36. ^ "Florida voter errors cost Gore the election". USA Today. May 11, 2001. Retrieved May 26, 2010. 
  37. ^ The Final Word? New Documents Raise Questions About News Media's Findings on the 2000 Presidential Election
  38. ^
  39. ^ "The Long Count". 
  40. ^
  41. ^


  • Recount is a made-for-TV political drama about the 2000 US Presidential election. The show was written by Danny Strong, directed by Jay Roach, and produced by Kevin Spacey (who also stars in the film). It premiered on HBO on May 25, 2008, and the DVD was released on August 19, 2008.


  1. Alred S. Austin
  2. Deborah L. Brooks
  3. Armando Codina
  4. Maria De La Milera
  5. Sandra M. Faulkner
  6. Thomas C. Feeney III
  7. Feliciano M. Foyo
  8. Jeanne Barber Godwin
  9. Dawn Guzzetta
  10. Cynthia M. Handley
  11. Adam W. Herbert
  12. Al Hoffman
  13. Glenda E. Hood
  14. Carole Jean Jordan
  15. Charles W. Kane
  16. Mel Martinez
  17. John M. McKay
  18. Dorsey C. Miller
  19. Berta J. Moralejo
  20. H. Gary Morse
  21. Marsha Nippert
  22. Darryl K. Sharpton
  23. Tom Slade
  24. John Thrasher
  25. Robert L. Woody

The following were the members of the Electoral College from the state. All were pledged to and voted for George W. Bush and Dick Cheney:[41]

The electors of each state and the District of Columbia met on December 18, 2000[40] to cast their votes for President and Vice President. The Electoral College itself never meets as one body. Instead the electors from each state and the District of Columbia met in their respective capitols.

Technically the voters of Florida cast their ballots for electors: representatives to the Electoral College. In 2000 Florida was allocated 25 electors because it had 23 congressional districts and 2 senators. All candidates who appear on the ballot or qualify to receive write-in votes must submit a list of 25 electors, who pledge to vote for their candidate and his or her running mate. Whoever wins the majority of votes in the state is awarded all 25 electoral votes. Their chosen electors then vote for President and Vice President. Although electors are pledged to their candidate and running mate, they are not obligated to vote for them. An elector who votes for someone other than his or her candidate is known as a faithless elector.


A nationwide December 14–21, 2000 [39]

Opinion polling on recount

...Everybody had thought that the chads were where all the bad ballots were, but it turned out that the ones that were the most decisive were write-in ballots where people would check Gore and write Gore in, and the machine kicked those out. There were 175,000 votes overall that were so-called “spoiled ballots.” About two-thirds of the spoiled ballots were over-votes; many or most of them would have been write-in over-votes, where people had punched and written in a candidate’s name. And nobody looked at this, not even the Florida Supreme Court in the last decision it made requiring a statewide recount. Nobody had thought about it except Judge Terry Lewis, who was overseeing the statewide recount when it was halted by the U.S. Supreme Court. The write-in over-votes have really not gotten much attention. Those votes are not ambiguous. When you see Gore picked and then Gore written in, there’s not a question in your mind who this person was voting for. When you go through those, they’re unambiguous: Bush got some of those votes, but they were overwhelmingly for Gore. For example, in an analysis of the 2.7 million votes that had been cast in Florida’s eight largest counties, The Washington Post found that Gore’s name was punched on 46,000 of the over-vote ballots it, while Bush’s name was marked on only 17,000...

As stated by Lance DeHaven Smith in his interview with Research in Review at Florida State University:[38]

  • Lenient standard. Gore by 332 votes.
  • Palm Beach standard. Gore by 242 votes.
  • Two-corner standard. Bush by 407 votes.
  • Strict standard. Bush by 152 votes.

Including overvotes in the above totals for undervotes gives different margins of victory:

According to the study, only 3% of the 111,261 overvotes had markings that could be interpreted as a legal vote. According to Anthony Salvado, a political scientist at the University of California, Irvine, who acted as a consultant on the media recount, most of the errors were caused by ballot design, ballot wording, and efforts by voters to choose both a president and a vice-president. For example, 21,188 of the Florida overvotes, or nearly one-fifth of the total, originated from Duval County, where the presidential race was split across two pages. Voters were instructed to "vote every page". Half of the overvotes in Duval County had one presidential candidate marked on each page, making their vote illegal under Florida law. Salvado says that this error alone cost Gore the election.

A larger consortium of news organizations, including the USA Today, the Miami Herald, Knight Ridder, the Tampa Tribune, and five other newspapers next conducted a full recount of all ballots, including both undervotes and overvotes. According to their results, under stricter standards for vote counting, Bush won, and under looser standards, Gore won.[36] However, a Gore win was impossible without a recount of overvotes, which he did not request. But one could argue that the recount of overvotes should have happened nonetheless, because faxes discovered after the media recount indicated that the judge overseeing the recount effort intended to have the overvotes counted. These were faxes between Judge Terry Lewis and the canvassing boards throughout the state.[37]

The study also found that undervotes break down into two distinct types, those coming from punch-card using counties, and those coming from optical-scan using counties. Undervotes from punch-card using counties give new votes to candidates in roughly the same proportion as the county's official vote. Furthermore, the number of undervotes correlates with how well the punch-card machines are maintained, and not with factors such as race or socioeconomic status. Undervotes from optical-scan using counties, however, correlate with Democratic votes more than Republican votes. Optical-scan counties were the only places in the study where Gore gained more votes than Bush, 1,036 to 775.

The study remarks that because of the possibility of mistakes, it is difficult to conclude that Gore was surely the winner under the strict standard. It also remarks that there are variations between examiners, and that election officials often did not provide the same number of undervotes as were counted on Election Day. Furthermore, the study did not consider overvotes, ballots which registered more than one vote when counted by machine.

  • Lenient standard. Any alteration in a chad, ranging from a dimple to a full punch, counts as a vote. By this standard, Bush won by 1,665 votes.
  • Palm Beach standard. A dimple is counted as a vote if other races on the same ballot show dimples as well. By this standard, Bush won by 884 votes.
  • Two-corner standard. A chad with two or more corners removed is counted as a vote. This is the most common standard in use. By this standard, Bush won by 363 votes.
  • Strict standard. Only a fully removed chad counts as a vote. By this standard, Gore won by 3 votes.

After the election, USA Today, The Miami Herald, and Knight Ridder commissioned accounting firm BDO Seidman to count undervotes, that is, ballots which did not register any vote when counted by machine. BDO Seidman's results, reported in USA Today, show that under the strictest standard, where only a cleanly punched ballot with a fully removed chad was counted, Gore won by three votes.[35] Under all other standards, Bush won, with Bush's margin increasing as looser standards were used. The standards considered by BDO Seidman were:

Following the election, recounts conducted by various United States news media organizations indicated that Bush would have won if certain recounting methods had been used (including the one favored by Gore at the time of the Supreme Court decision) but that Gore might have won under other scenarios.[34]

Media based

Candidate outcomes based on potential non-absentee recounts in Florida presidential election 2000
(outcome of one particular study)[33]
Review method Winner
Review of all ballots statewide (never undertaken)  
•  Including dimples, optical marks, or overvotes Gore by 171
•  Fully punched chad and limited marks on optical ballots Gore by 115
•  Any dimples or optical mark Gore by 107
•  One corner of chad detached or optical mark Gore by 60
Review of limited sets of ballots (initiated but not completed)  
•  Gore request for recounts of all ballots in Broward, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, and Volusia counties Bush by 225
•  Florida Supreme Court of all undervotes statewide Bush by 430
•  Florida Supreme Court as being implemented by the counties, some of whom refused and some counted overvotes as well as undervotes Bush by 493
Unofficial recount totals  
•  Incomplete result when the Supreme Court stayed the recount (December 9, 2000) Bush by 154
Certified Result (official final count)  
•  Recounts included from Volusia and Broward only Bush by 537

Note these figures also do not take into account a dispute over 500 absentee ballots that Bush requested to be added to the certified totals. If found to be legal votes that would put Gore totally out of reach regardless of any manual recount standard.

The NORC study was not primarily intended as a determination of which candidate "really won". Analysis of the results found that different standards for the hand-counting of machine-uncountable ballots would lead to differing results. The results according to the various standards were reported in the newspapers which funded the recount, such as The Miami Herald[31] and the Washington Post.[32]

The National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, sponsored by a consortium of major United States news organizations, conducted a Florida Ballot Project comprehensive review of all ballots uncounted (by machine) in the Florida 2000 presidential election, both undervotes and overvotes, with the main research aim being to report how different ballot layouts correlate with voter mistakes. The total number of undervotes and overvotes in Florida amounted to 3% of all votes cast in the state. The findings of the review were reported by the media during the week after November 12, 2001.

Florida Ballot Project recounts

Post election studies

District Bush Gore Representative
1st 69% 31% Joe Scarborough
2nd 53% 47% Allen Boyd
3rd 35% 65% Corrine Brown
4th 66% 34% Tillie K. Fowler
Ander Crenshaw
5th 54% 46% Karen Thurman
6th 58% 42% Cliff Stearns
7th 54% 46% John Mica
8th 54% 46% Bill McCollum
Ric Keller
9th 54% 46% Michael Bilirakis
10th 49% 51% Bill Young
11th 39% 61% Jim Davis
12th 55% 45% Charles Canady
Adam Putnam
13th 56% 44% Dan Miller
14th 61% 39% Porter Goss
15th 57% 43% Dave Weldon
16th 53% 47% Mark Foley
17th 15% 85% Carrie Meek
18th 57% 43% Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
19th 27% 73% Robert Wexler
20th 31% 69% Peter Deutsch
21st 58% 42% Lincoln Diaz-Balart
22nd 48% 52% E. Clay Shaw Jr.
23rd 20% 80% Alcee Hastings
[30]Bush won 15 of 23 congressional districts.

By congressional district

County Bush Votes Gore Votes Nader Votes Buchanan Votes Other Votes
Alachua 39.8% 34,135 55.2% 47,380 3.8% 3,228 0.3% 263 0.9% 751
Baker 68.8% 5,611 29.3% 2,392 0.6% 53 0.9% 73 0.3% 26
Bay 65.7% 38,682 32.1% 18,873 1.4% 830 0.4% 248 0.4% 243
Bradford 62.4% 5,416 35.4% 3,075 1.0% 84 0.7% 65 0.4% 35
Brevard 52.8% 115,253 44.6% 97,341 2.0% 4,471 0.3% 571 0.4% 852
Broward 30.9% 177,939 67.4% 387,760 1.2% 7,105 0.1% 795 0.3% 1,640
Calhoun 55.5% 2,873 41.7% 2,156 0.8% 39 1.7% 90 0.3% 17
Charlotte 53.0% 35,428 44.3% 29,646 2.2% 1,462 0.3% 182 0.3% 182
Citrus 52.1% 29,801 44.6% 25,531 2.4% 1,383 0.5% 270 0.5% 263
Clay 72.8% 41,903 25.5% 14,668 1.0% 565 0.3% 186 0.4% 237
Collier 65.6% 60,467 32.5% 29,939 1.5% 1,405 0.1% 122 0.3% 269
Columbia 59.2% 10,968 38.1% 7,049 1.4% 258 0.5% 89 0.8% 150
Desoto 54.5% 4,256 42.5% 3,321 2.0% 157 0.5% 36 0.5% 42
Dixie 57.8% 2,697 39.1% 1,827 1.6% 75 0.6% 29 0.8% 39
Duval 57.5% 152,460 40.7% 108,039 1.0% 2,762 0.2% 653 0.5% 1,267
Escambia 62.6% 73,171 35.1% 40,990 1.5% 1,733 0.4% 502 0.4% 460
Flagler 46.5% 12,618 51.3% 13,897 1.6% 435 0.3% 83 0.3% 83
Franklin 52.8% 2,454 44.1% 2,047 1.8% 85 0.7% 33 0.6% 26
Gadsden 32.4% 4,770 66.1% 9,736 0.9% 139 0.3% 38 0.3% 48
Gilchrist 61.2% 3,300 35.4% 1,910 1.8% 97 0.5% 29 1.1% 59
Glades 54.7% 1,841 42.9% 1,442 1.7% 56 0.3% 9 0.5% 17
Gulf 57.8% 3,553 39.0% 2,398 1.4% 86 1.2% 71 0.7% 40
Hamilton 54.1% 2,147 43.4% 1,723 0.9% 37 0.6% 23 0.9% 36
Hardee 60.4% 3,765 37.6% 2,342 1.2% 75 0.5% 30 0.4% 24
Hendry 58.3% 4,747 39.8% 3,240 1.3% 104 0.3% 22 0.3% 26
Hernando 47.0% 30,658 50.0% 32,648 2.3% 1,501 0.4% 243 0.3% 186
Highlands 57.5% 20,207 40.3% 14,169 1.6% 545 0.4% 127 0.3% 104
Hillsborough 50.2% 180,794 47.1% 169,576 2.1% 7,496 0.2% 847 0.5% 1,641
Holmes 67.8% 5,012 29.4% 2,177 1.3% 94 1.0% 76 0.5% 37
Indian River 57.7% 28,639 39.8% 19,769 1.9% 950 0.2% 105 0.3% 164
Jackson 56.1% 9,139 42.1% 6,870 0.8% 138 0.6% 102 0.3% 54
Jefferson 43.9% 2,478 53.9% 3,041 1.3% 76 0.5% 29 0.3% 19
Lafayette 66.7% 1,670 31.5% 789 1.0% 26 0.4% 10 0.4% 10
Lake 56.4% 50,010 41.3% 36,571 1.6% 1,460 0.3% 289 0.3% 281
Lee 57.6% 106,151 39.9% 73,571 1.9% 3,588 0.2% 305 0.4% 785
Leon 37.9% 39,073 59.6% 61,444 1.9% 1,934 0.3% 282 0.4% 421
Levy 53.9% 6,863 42.4% 5,398 2.2% 285 0.5% 67 0.9% 117
Liberty 54.6% 1,317 42.2% 1,017 0.8% 19 1.6% 39 0.7% 18
Madison 49.3% 3,038 48.9% 3,015 0.9% 54 0.5% 29 0.4% 27
Manatee 52.6% 58,023 44.6% 49,226 2.3% 2,494 0.2% 271 0.3% 330
Marion 53.6% 55,146 43.4% 44,674 1.8% 1,810 0.5% 563 0.8% 778
Martin 54.8% 33,972 42.9% 26,621 1.8% 1,118 0.2% 112 0.3% 193
Miami-Dade 46.3% 289,574 52.6% 328,867 0.9% 5,355 0.1% 560 0.2% 1,196
Monroe 47.4% 16,063 48.6% 16,487 3.2% 1,090 0.1% 47 0.6% 208
Nassau 69.0% 16,408 29.2% 6,955 1.1% 253 0.4% 90 0.3% 81
Okaloosa 73.7% 52,186 24.0% 16,989 1.4% 988 0.4% 268 0.5% 388
Okeechobee 51.3% 5,057 46.6% 4,589 1.3% 131 0.4% 43 0.3% 34
Orange 48.0% 134,531 50.1% 140,236 1.4% 3,879 0.2% 446 0.4% 1,063
Osceola 47.1% 26,237 50.6% 28,187 1.3% 733 0.3% 145 0.7% 388
Palm Beach 35.3% 152,964 62.3% 269,754 1.3% 5,566 0.8% 3,411 0.4% 1,527
Pasco 48.1% 68,607 48.7% 69,576 2.4% 3,394 0.4% 570 0.4% 622
Pinellas 46.4% 184,849 50.3% 200,657 2.5% 10,023 0.3% 1,013 0.5% 1,984
Polk 53.6% 90,310 44.6% 75,207 1.2% 2,059 0.3% 533 0.3% 520
Putnam 51.3% 13,457 46.1% 12,107 1.4% 379 0.6% 148 0.6% 148
Santa Rosa 72.1% 36,339 25.4% 12,818 1.4% 726 0.6% 311 0.4% 208
Sarasota 51.6% 83,117 45.3% 72,869 2.5% 4,071 0.2% 305 0.4% 615
Seminole 55.0% 75,790 43.0% 59,227 1.4% 1,949 0.1% 195 0.5% 644
St. Johns 65.1% 39,564 32.1% 19,509 2.0% 1,217 0.4% 229 0.4% 252
St. Lucie 44.5% 34,705 53.3% 41,560 1.8% 1,368 0.2% 124 0.3% 233
Sumter 54.5% 12,127 43.3% 9,637 1.4% 306 0.5% 114 0.3% 77
Suwannee 64.3% 8,009 32.7% 4,076 1.4% 180 0.9% 108 0.7% 88
Taylor 59.6% 4,058 38.9% 2,649 0.9% 59 0.4% 27 0.2% 17
Union 61.0% 2,332 36.8% 1,407 0.9% 33 1.0% 37 0.4% 17
Volusia 44.8% 82,368 53.0% 97,313 1.6% 2,910 0.3% 498 0.3% 585
Wakulla 52.5% 4,512 44.7% 3,838 1.7% 149 0.5% 46 0.5% 42
Walton 66.5% 12,186 30.8% 5,643 1.4% 265 0.7% 120 0.6% 109
Washington 62.2% 4,995 34.9% 2,798 1.2% 93 1.1% 88 0.6% 52

By county

Results breakdown

Federal official vote for the state of Florida (25 electoral votes)
Presidential candidate
and running mate
Vote total % Party
George W. Bush–
Dick Cheney
2,912,790 48.847% Republican
Al Gore
Joe Lieberman
2,912,253 48.838% Democratic
Ralph Nader
Winona LaDuke
97,488 1.635% Green
Patrick J. Buchanan
Ezola B. Foster
17,484 0.293% Reform
Harry Browne
Art Olivier
16,415 0.275% Libertarian
John Hagelin
Nat Goldhaber
2,281 0.038% Natural Law
Monica Moorehead
Gloria La Riva
1,804 0.030% Workers World
Howard Phillips
Curtis Frazier
1,371 0.023% Constitution
David McReynolds
Mary Cal Hollis
622 0.010% Socialist
James Harris
Margaret Trowe
562 0.009% Socialist Workers
May Chote–
Miriam E. Lancaster
34 0.001% Write-in
Ken C. McCarthy–
Frank Beifus
2 0.000% Write-in
Total 5,963,110
Sources: [28][29]

Final certified results

This ruling stopped the vote recount, allowing Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris to certify the election results. This allowed Florida's electoral votes to be cast for Bush, making him the winner.

About 10 p.m. EST on December 12, the United States Supreme Court handed down its ruling in favor of Bush. Seven of the nine justices saw constitutional problems with the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution in the Florida Supreme Court's plan for recounting ballots, citing differing vote-counting standards from county to county and the lack of a single judicial officer to oversee the recount. Five justices held there was insufficient time to impose a unified standard and that the recounts should therefore be stopped and Florida be allowed to certify its vote, effectively ending the legal review of the vote count with Bush in the lead. The 5–4 decision became extremely controversial due to the partisan split in the decision and the majority's irregular instruction that its judgment in Bush v. Gore should not set precedent but should be "limited to the present circumstances". Gore publicly disagreed with the court's decision, but conceded the election.

The recount was in progress on December 9, when the United States Supreme Court 5-4 (Justices Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg and Breyer dissenting) granted Bush's emergency plea for a stay of the Florida Supreme Court recount ruling, stopping the incomplete recount, which had an unofficial lead of 154 votes for Bush.

U.S. Supreme Court Proceedings

At 4:00 p.m. EST on December 8, the Florida Supreme Court, by a 4 to 3 vote, ordered a manual recount, under the supervision of the Leon County Circuit Court and Leon County Elections Supervisor Ion Sancho, of disputed ballots in all Florida counties and the portion of Miami-Dade county in which such a recount was not already complete. That decision was announced on live world-wide television by the Florida Supreme Court's spokesman Craig Waters, the Court's public information officer. The Court further ordered that only undervotes be considered. The results of this tally were to be added to the November 14 tally.

Eventually, the Gore campaign appealed to the Florida Supreme Court which ordered the recounting process to proceed. The Bush campaign subsequently appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States which took up the case Bush v. Palm Beach County Canvassing Board on December 1. On December 4, the U.S. Supreme Court returned this matter to the Florida Supreme Court with an order vacating its earlier decision. In its opinion, the Supreme Court cited several areas where the Florida Supreme Court had violated both the federal and Florida constitutions. The Court further held that it had "considerable uncertainty" as to the reasons given by the Florida Supreme Court for its decision. The Florida Supreme Court clarified its ruling on this matter while the United States Supreme Court was deliberating Bush v. Gore.

The trial of Palm Beach Canvassing Board v. Katherine Harris was a response from the Bush campaign to state litigation against extending the statutory deadlines for the manual recounts. Besides deadlines, also in dispute were the criteria that each county's canvassing board would use in examining the overvotes and/or undervotes. Numerous local court rulings went both ways, some ordering recounts because the vote was so close and others declaring that a selective manual recount in a few heavily-Democratic counties would be unfair.

Florida Supreme Court spokesman Craig Waters

Florida Supreme Court appeals

The Gore campaign, as allowed by Florida statute, requested that disputed ballots in four counties be counted by hand. Florida statutes also required that all counties certify and report their returns, including any recounts, by 5 p.m. on November 14. The manual recounts were time-consuming, and, when it became clear that some counties would not complete their recounts before the deadline, both Volusia and Palm Beach Counties sued to have their deadlines extended.

The Bush campaign sued to prevent additional recounts on the basis that no errors were found in the tabulation method until subjective measures were applied in manual recounts.

The canvassing board did not discover any errors in the tabulation process in the initial mandated recount.

Once the closeness of the election in Florida was clear, both the Bush and Gore campaigns organized themselves for the ensuing legal process. The Bush campaign hired Secretary of State James Baker to oversee their legal team, and the Gore campaign hired Bill Clinton's former Secretary of State Warren Christopher.

Due to the narrow margin of the original vote count, Florida law mandated a statewide recount. In addition, the Gore campaign requested that the votes in three counties be recounted by hand. Florida state law at the time allowed the candidate to request a manual recount by protesting the results of at least three precincts.[25] The county canvassing board would then decide whether to recount as well as the method of the recount in those three precincts.[26] If the board discovered an error, they were then authorized to recount the ballots.[27]


Prior to the election, unusually substandard paper ballots, including misaligned chads, were manufactured by employees of the Sequoia Pacific company, out of normal specifications and failing quality testing, prior to shipping to Palm Beach County. (see

The ballot was redesigned earlier that year by Theresa LePore (Supervisor of Elections, and member of the Democratic Party).[23] She said she used both sides of the ballot in order to make the candidate names larger so the county's elderly residents could more easily see the names.[24]

He, unlike the voters, did not see the ballot before Election Night. Although Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer said on November 9, 2000, "Palm Beach County is a Pat Buchanan stronghold and that's why Pat Buchanan received 3,407 votes there", Buchanan's Florida coordinator, Jim McConnell, responded, "That's nonsense", and Jim Cunningham, chairman of the executive committee of Palm Beach County's Reform Party, responded, "I don't think so. Not from where I'm sitting and what I'm looking at." Cunningham estimated the number of Buchanan supporters in Palm Beach County to be between 400 and 500. Asked how many votes he would guess Buchanan legitimately received in Palm Beach County, he said, "I think 1,000 would be generous. Do I believe that these people inadvertently cast their votes for Pat Buchanan? Yes, I do. We have to believe that based on the vote totals elsewhere."

When I took one look at that ballot on Election Night ... it's very easy for me to see how someone could have voted for me in the belief they voted for Al Gore.

Buchanan said on The Today Show, November 9, 2000:

Other statistical studies looked at what parties a voter voted for in other races when the voter selected Buchanan and his Reform Party for president. They showed that these Buchanan voters tended to vote Democratic, not Reform or anything closer to Reform. This provides further evidence that voters were confused by the butterfly ballot and intended to vote for Gore.

A later review of discarded ballots in Palm Beach County by the Palm Beach Post showed that 5,330 ballots were spoiled with votes cast for both Gore and Buchanan, and 1,631 for Bush and Buchanan. These could indicate voters misunderstood that the Buchanan hole applied to the right side of the ballot and punched what appeared to be multiple holes for their candidate of choice. An opposing theory is that these voters were not confused by the ballot but simply believed they could vote for two candidates. But it would be strange for someone's two candidates to be Gore and Buchanan, given how dissimilar the two candidates were.

One theory is that voters might have accidentally voted for Buchanan when they thought they were voting for Gore on a so-called "butterfly ballot". In this ballot format used in Palm Beach County polling places (but not absentee ballots or other counties), the Democrats are listed second in the left column; but punching a hole in the second circle actually cast a vote for Buchanan, who was listed first in the right column. If the machine loading the ballot did not line it up with the candidates properly, it became hard for the voter to tell which hole to punch. Voters who punched the second hole would have ignored an arrow on the ballot showing which hole was to be punched if the arrow did not line up with the hole correctly due to machine error, because the design of the ballot neglected the effects of parallax due to the center row of holes being in a different plane from the two columns of printed names, and the ballot being viewed at an oblique angle.[22]

Representatives of Buchanan's campaign and the Reform Party estimated Buchanan's true vote total at between 400 and 1,000 votes.

The number of ballots marked for Buchanan in Palm Beach County was oddly large. Early reports had Buchanan receiving about 0.8% of the vote in Palm Beach County (a total of 3,407 votes), significantly outperforming his statewide share of 0.29%. Furthermore, absentee ballots from the same county showed far less support for Buchanan than Election Day ballots, even normalizing for the difference in choice shown by absentee voters in the neighboring county. Finally, an unusually large number of ballots were spoiled because of two votes in the same race, and one of those two votes was for Pat Buchanan with the other being for Bush or Gore.

Much evidence suggests that many voters in Palm Beach County who intended to vote for Gore or Bush actually marked their ballots for Pat Buchanan or spoiled their ballots because of the ballot's confusing layout.

Simulation of the "butterfly ballot", seen at an angle

Palm Beach County's butterfly ballots

  • The actions of the Florida Secretary of State, Katherine Harris, who was in charge of state election procedures, also came under fire, due to her status as a Bush state campaign co-chairman, her involvement with the "scrub list", and her behavior during the recount crisis. In particular, democracy advocates have taken issue with her antagonizing of Democratic lawyers, her dispatching of a lawyer to Palm Beach County to convince the voting board to vote down a manual recount (despite thousands of protesters within the county, including 12,000 with affidavits), and in particular her collaboration with Republican party advisers (at one point housing them).
  • There were a number of overseas ballots missing postmarks or filled out in such a way that they were invalid under Florida law. A poll worker filled out the missing information on some absentee ballot applications; the Democrats moved to have the returned ballots thrown out because of this. These disputes added to the mass of litigation between parties to influence the counting of ballots. The largest group of disputed overseas ballots were military ballots. On November 19, 2000, Democratic vice-presidential candidate Senator Joseph I. Lieberman appeared on Meet the Press and said that election officials should give the "benefit of the doubt" to military voters rather than disqualifying any overseas ballots that lacked required postmarks or witness signatures. Until that point, the Democrats had pursued a strategy of persuading counties to strictly enforce those requirements by disqualifying illegal ballots and reducing votes from overseas, which were predominantly cast for Bush.[16]
  • A suit by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) (NAACP v. Harris) argued that Florida was in violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the United States Constitution's Equal Protection Amendment. Settlement agreements were reached in this suit.[17] However, a systematic investigation by the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice found no evidence of racial discrimination.[18]
  • Between May 1999 and Election Day 2000, two Florida secretaries of state, Sandra Mortham and Katherine Harris, contracted with (DBT Online Inc.), at a cost of $4.294 million, to have the "scrub list"s reworked. Nearly 1% of Florida's electorate and nearly 3% of its African-American voters — 96,000 citizens — were listed as felons and removed from the voting rolls. (For instance, many had names similar to actual felons, some listed "felonies" were dated years in the future, and some apparently were random.) In a small minority of cases, those on the scrub list were given several months to appeal, and some successfully reregistered and were allowed to vote. But most were not told that they weren't allowed to vote until they were turned away at the polls. The company was directed not to use cross-checks or its sophisticated verification plan (used by the FBI).[19]
  • People like Washington County Elections Chief Carol Griffen (1 p.25) have argued that Florida was in violation of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 by requiring those convicted of felonies in other states (and subsequently restored their rights by said states) to request clemency and a restoration of their rights from Governor Jeb Bush, in a process that could take two years and ultimately was left to Bush's discretion. One should note Schlenther v. Florida Department of State (June 1998), which ruled that Florida could not prevent a man convicted of a felony in Connecticut, where his civil rights had not been lost, from exercising his civil rights.
  • A full cousin of George W. Bush, Volusia error was introduced. This error took 16,022 votes away from Gore and gave those votes and more to Bush, producing more total votes in the precinct than there were registered voters. The other major networks announced the same totals within minutes. The error was corrected quickly and the calls retracted one by one.
  • Xavier Suarez, who was ousted as mayor of Miami in 1998 on charges of absentee voter fraud, was later elected to the Executive Committee of the Miami-Dade Republican Party. Suarez helped fill out absentee ballot forms and enlist Republican absentee voters in Miami-Dade County for the 2000 presidential election. “Dade County Republicans have a very specific expertise in getting out absentee ballots,” Suarez is claimed to have remarked. “I obviously have specific experience in this myself.”[20]
  • The Brooks Brothers riot: the manual recount in Miami-Dade County was shut down shortly after screaming protesters arrived at Miami's recount center. It turned out that these protesters were Republican Party members flown in from other states, some at Republican Party expense.[21]
  • The suppression of vote pairing. In brief, web sites sprang up to match Nader supporters in swing states like Florida with Gore supporters in non-swing states like Texas: the Nader supporters in Florida would vote for Gore and the Gore supporters in Texas would vote for Nader. This would have allowed Nader to still get his fair share of the vote and perhaps get into the Presidential debates while also allowing Gore to carry swing states. Six Republican state secretaries of state, led by Bill Jones of California, threatened the web sites with criminal prosecution and caused some of them to reluctantly shut down. The ACLU got involved to protect the sites, and the Federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Jones two years later, but by then the election was over. The vote pairing sites tallied 1,412 Nader supporters in Florida who voted for Gore, and if only a few more of the 97,421 people who voted for Nader in Florida had known about vote pairing, the election might have had a different outcome.
Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris became a controversial figure during the Florida electoral recount.
  • Democratic State Senator Daryl Jones said that there had to have been an order to set up roadblocks in heavily Democratic regions of the state on the day of the election.[14]
  • Democratic lawyer Mark Herron authored a memo distributed to Democratic election canvassers on how to invalidate military absentee ballots. The Herron Memo stated postmark and "point of origin" criteria Herron maintained could be used to invalidate military ballots. But the Herron Memo was in line with a letter sent out by Secretary of State Katherine Harris stating that if a postmark was not present on a military ballot, it had to be thrown out. Florida Attorney General Bob Butterworth, a Gore backer, later told the counties to go back and reconsider those ballots without a postmark.[15]

In a 2010 issue of TV Guide, the premature calls for Gore's victory ranked #2 on a list of TV's ten biggest "blunders", and were blamed for ushering in a new era of public distrust of the media.[13]

  • All five major US TV news networks (CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox and CNN) made the incorrect assumption that all of Florida's polls closed at 7:00 p.m. EST. All five of them reported this incorrect information at the top of the 6:00-7:00 hour. In fact, the westernmost counties in Florida had polls open for another hour, until 8:00 p.m. EST, as they are in the Central Time Zone. This region of the state traditionally voted mostly Republican. Because of the above mistaken assumption, some media outlets reported at 7:00 p.m. EST that all polls had closed in the state of Florida. Also, significantly, the Voter News Service called the state of Florida for Gore at 7:48 p.m. EST. A survey estimate by John McLaughlin & Associates put the number of voters who did not vote due to confusion as high as 15,000, which theoretically reduced Bush's margin of victory by an estimated 5,000 votes;[11] a study by John Lott found that Bush's margin of victory was reduced by 7,500 votes.[12] This survey assumes that the turnout in the Panhandle counties would have equaled the statewide average of 68% if the media had not incorrectly reported the polls' closing time and if the state had not been called for Gore while the polls were still open. This opens the possibility that Bush would have won by a larger margin and controversy would have been avoided if the networks had known and reported the correct poll closing times and called the state after all polls were closed. Some individuals made public statements to the effect that they would have voted for Bush but did not vote because of the poll close time confusion, or the Gore call.

Following the election a number of studies have been made of the electoral process in Florida by Democrats, Republicans, and other interested parties. A number of flaws and improprieties have been discovered in the process. Controversies included:

Controversial issues

The Florida election has been closely scrutinized since the election, and several irregularities are thought to have favored Bush. These included the Palm Beach "butterfly ballot," which produced an unexpectedly large number of votes for third-party candidate Patrick Buchanan. Also noted was a purge of over 54,000 citizens from the Florida voting rolls identified as felons, of whom 54% were African-Americans. The majority of these were not felons and should have been eligible to vote under Florida law.[9] Additionally, there were many more "overvotes" than usual, especially in predominantly African-American precincts in Duval county (Jacksonville), where some 27,000 ballots showed two or more choices for President. Unlike the much-discussed Palm Beach County "butterfly ballot", the Duval County ballot spread choices for President over two pages with instructions to "vote on every page" on the bottom of each page.[10]

"Butterfly ballot"

Recount irregularities

Bush won the election night vote count in Florida by 1,784 votes. Florida state law provided for an automatic recount due to the small margins. There were general concerns about the fairness and accuracy of the voting process, especially since a small change in the vote count could change the result. The final official Florida count gave the victory to Bush by 537 votes, making it the tightest race of the campaign (at least in percentage terms; New Mexico was decided by 363 votes but has a much smaller population, meaning those 363 votes represent a 0.061% difference while the 537 votes in Florida are just 0.009%). Most of the reduction in the ensuing recount came from Miami-Dade county alone, a statistical anomaly.

Once the polls had closed in the panhandle, the networks retracted their call for Gore, calling the state for Bush; then retracted that call as well, finally indicating the state was "too close to call".[5] In an editorial for National Review magazine, Tim Graham, director of media analysis for the conservative Media Research Center, claimed that the media's premature call for Gore's victory in Florida might have disenfranchised many pro-Bush voters in the Panhandle;[6] however, this claim was deemed "extremely unlikely" by Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), a liberal media watch group.[7] Gore made a concession phone call to Bush the night of the election, then retracted it after learning just how close the election was.[8]

The controversy began on election night, when the national television networks, using information provided to them by the Associated Press to help determine the outcome of the election through early result tallies and exit polling, first called Florida for Gore in the hour after polls closed in the eastern peninsula (which is in the Eastern time zone) but before they had closed in the heavily Republican counties of the western panhandle (which is in the Central time zone).

Election night

Palm Beach County recount attracted protestors and media.


In late October, one poll found that Gore was leading Bush and third parties with 44-42-4 among registered voters and 46-42-4 among likely voters.[4]

In 1996, exit polling showed 42% of the voting population in the state were made up of voters older than 60 years old, thus making Social Security and Medicare the top issues in Florida. Polls showed older voters favored Gore 51% to 37%.[3]

Also there was heavy backlash amongst the Cuban-American population against Democrats during the Elian Gonzalez dispute, during which Janet Reno, President Bill Clinton's Attorney General, ordered 6-year-old Cuban refugee Elian Gonzalez to be returned to Cuba. The Democrats' share of the Cuban vote dropped dramatically compared to 1996. This was also a huge factor in the closeness of the final results. It is speculated that, had the Cuban vote remained the same compared to 1996, Gore's chance of winning Florida would have been all but certain given the mere 537-vote difference.

immigrant population, thus supplanting Republican gains in the state, and putting the state in play in 2000. Hispanic and Asian had been migrating to Florida since the 1950s, as well as a growing Northeast Also, various Northern-born voters from reliable blue states in the [2] Some late momentum for Gore and his Jewish running mate Joe Lieberman may also have come from the significant Jewish population in southern Florida.[1]

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