Bush v. Gore Case Brief: Summary and Decision

Instructor: Michael Gott

Mike is a veteran of the New Hampshire public school system and has worked in grades 1-12. His role has varied from primary instructor to special needs support.

On December 11, 2000, the Supreme Court case of Bush v. Gore officially began to examine the application of the 14th amendment to voting laws. Its decision would effectively determine who the 43rd President of the United States would be.

The Most Votes Doesn't Always Win

In U.S. presidential elections, getting the most votes doesn't ensure victory. This is something Democratic candidate Al Gore learned first hand. In the 2000 election, he had more votes nation wide than his opponent, but it was Republican George W. Bush who became the 43rd President of the United States. This was due to the Supreme Court's ruling in the Bush v. Gore case, which looked at Florida's contested election results. In this lesson, we will take a deeper look at this case.

Al Gore
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The Role of the Electoral College

On election night of the 2000 presidential campaign, no clear winner had emerged. The winner of Florida would become next the President of the United States based on the electoral college. The electoral college combines the popular vote with congressional representation to determine how many points a state is worth. The first presidential candidate to reach 270 points, a majority of the points becomes the next president. The points awarded by Florida in 2000, which was 27, would put either Bush or Gore above this number.

Florida's Voting Laws

The margin of victory for Bush in Florida was around .1%, but Florida law states election results that have a .5% margin or less of victory are to be recounted by machine. Both the Bush and Gore campaigns dispatched lawyers to support their cases for victory.

Confusion over Election Results

When the machine recount was completed, Bush's margin of victory shrunk, but these results were still questionable. Florida's Secretary of State tried to declare W. Bush the victor, while the Florida Supreme Court ordered the manual recount to continue.

George W. Bush's campaign requested a writ of certiorari to stop the recount ordered by Florida's Supreme Court. A writ of certiorari is an emergency petition to the Supreme Court, who ordered a freeze of the recount. This writ of certiorari led to the Bush v. Gore case.

George W. Bush
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The Question Before the Court

In the Bush v. Gore case, the issue before the Supreme Court was if the Florida Supreme Court inadvertently create a new law in ordering the manual recount of votes after the legally mandated machine recount? If the Supreme Court determined that the order constituted a new law, the order would be struck down because courts cannot create laws. If the order was determined not to be a law, then the recount would continue, and when it was competed, Florida's Secretary of State could certify the results, making the results official.

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