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Bush v. Gore
United States Supreme Court
531 U.S. 1046 (2000)
In the 2000 presidential election, Florida voters cast their votes on machines designed to record votes made by a stylus on a punchcard. The voter was supposed to punch a hole in the card next to the name of the voter's preferred candidate. However, in some cases, a piece of the card was left hanging (a hanging chad) or was merely indented (a dimpled chad), rather than a clean hole punched. On the day after the election, the Florida Division of Elections reported that George W. Bush (plaintiff) was leading in the vote tally over Albert Gore (defendant), but the narrow margin of Bush's lead triggered an automatic machine recount of the votes under the Florida Election Code. The counting machines automatically rejected any ballots that they could not read, including ballots with hanging or dimpled chads. These ballots were known as “undervotes.” The machines also rejected “overvote” ballots, on which more than one hole was punched for the same office. After the machine recount, Bush still led in the vote, but his margin of victory had decreased. Gore then sought manual recounts in four counties. On November 26, 2000, the Florida Elections Canvassing Commission certified the results of the election and awarded Florida's 25 electoral votes to Bush. Gore then filed a complaint under a Florida statute that provided for a contest of election results when there was “receipt of a number of illegal votes or rejection of a number of legal votes sufficient to change or place in doubt the result of the election.” The trial court rejected Gore's challenge and held that Gore had failed to meet his burden of proof. However, the Florida Supreme Court held that Gore had met his burden of proof on some of his challenges, including his challenge to Miami-Dade County’s failure to manually recount 9,000 undervote ballots. The court said that there were legal votes within those 9,000 ballots, and this placed the election results in doubt. The court defined a “legal vote” as one with a “clear indication of the intent of the voter.” The court thus ordered, among other things, a manual recount of the 9,000 ballots in Miami-Dade County and an additional manual recount of all undervote ballots in all Florida counties in which those ballots had not been subject to manual tabulation. The job of the canvassers conducting the manual recounts was to determine a voter's intent by examining the face of the ballot. However, there were no uniform guidelines for assessing the ballots. Shortly after the manual recounts began, Bush requested that the United States Supreme Court stay the mandate ordering the recount, arguing that allowing the recount to proceed without uniform guidelines would cause irreparable harm. Both parties agreed that a manual recount could produce a degradation in the ballots that might render any subsequent recounts inaccurate.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Per curiam)
Concurrence (Scalia, J.)
Dissent (Stevens, J.)
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