Bush v. Gore Summary
The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Bush based on the “safe harbor provision” of 3 U. S. C. §5, which recognizes as valid only those state certifications of presidential candidates which are completed six days prior to the meeting of the electoral college. In its ruling, the Court also analyzed state recount standards in light of the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution.
Key Players in Brown v. Board of Education
- 1Appellants: Al Gore, a presidential candidate who claimed that he lost the 2000 election due to an improper recount of ballots (primarily, paper ballots) by the state of Florida.
- 2Appellees: George W. Bush, a presidential candidate who was elected president based on the result of the vote recount in Florida.
Bush v. Gore Brief
The central themes of this case are state recount standards for federal elections, the Equal Protection Clause, and the Due Process Clause of the Constitution.
Bush v. Gore Facts
Al Gore, U.S. presidential candidate, filed a lawsuit against the winner of the 2000 Presidential election, George W. Bush. Bush’s win was secured by the electoral college votes of Florida, but the difference between the individual vote counts for Gore and for Bush were so close that Florida law mandated a recount of the votes. Bush was ultimately declared the winner in Florida based on the results of the recount. Gore proceeded to file a lawsuit. He claimed that standards used during the recount (specifically, the recount process for paper ballots, the merely partial recount conducted for Miami-Dade county alone, and the process for determining the intent of the voters based on “hanging chads”, “dimpled chads”, or other similar partial impressions in the paper ballots) raised questions as to whether the state had, in violation of the Constitution, “established new standards for resolving [federal] Presidential election contests”. During the recount, the counties all used different methods to identify a “legal vote”; and the different methods created a count of vastly disparate increased numbers of votes in each county after the recount. This, thus, also became an issue in Gore’s ensuing legal case. When Bush was announced the winner in late-November 2000, the recount had not yet been completed. So, Gore filed a lawsuit to force completion of the recount. The Gore campaign also claimed that the state’s requirement of a “standardless manual recount” in a close Presidential election violated the Equal Protection Clause and the Due Process Clause. Further, Gore claimed that the state recount process may have violated a federal elections statute. In early-December 2000, the Florida Supreme Court held that a recount was required for ‘undervotes’ represented by improperly punched paper ballots containing an ambiguous indicator of voter intent called a “hanging chad”. Bush appealed.
The Bush v. Gore Decision
The Court’s ruling focused on the “safe harbor provision” of 3 U. S. C. §5, which asserted that state provisions for conclusively certifying a Presidential candidate in a contested election will be recognized as valid by the federal government if the provisions are in place six days prior to the meeting of the electoral college (in that year, the college would convene on December 18, 2000). “Safe harbor” also required that any remedial measures such as recounts in connection with the election certification process be completed by that same deadline to be recognized in the same manner by the federal government. It concluded that, were it to grant (on the day of decision, December 12, 2000) the remedies sought by the appellant, the safe harbor provision would be violated because the remedy would be completed after the deadline of December 12, 2000. The Court further noted that any further “appropriate” relief—such as a recount of ‘undervotes’ ordered by the Florida Supreme Court—in connection with the overall recount process had to have been completed by December 12. The Court decided that it was impossible to grant the relief requested—the recount—within a day. So, it ruled in favor of Bush on the basis of the statutory deadline.
Although its decision was based on “safe harbor”, the Court’s ruling outlined key principles relevant to the constitutionality of Florida’s recount process. The Court noted that, based on case law, Equal Protection applies to the context of voting in the sense that one voted cannot be counted as more valuable than another. Some votes were counted as more valuable than others, the court determined, based on the fact that different Florida counties recovered vastly different numbers of new votes based on their varying methods for evaluating the intent expressed in paper ballots and on their differing criteria for what amounted to a “legal vote”. This, in the court’s opinion was an Equal Protection violation. The Court, in its ruling, went on to state that the methods used in the recount and particularly during the interpretation of ambiguous paper ballots, did not secure the “fundamental right” inherent in voting as they included no “specific standards to ensure…equal application” of the state’s order to simply determine the voter’s intent within ballot.
Key Takeaways for Law Students
- 1“Standardless manual recounts” by a state of votes after a federal election constitute an Equal Protection violation where the methods used in the recount are not sufficient to secure the “fundamental [constitutional] right” inherent in voting.
- 2Under the safe harbor provision of 3 U. S. C. §5, state provisions for conclusively certifying a Presidential candidate in a contested election will be recognized as valid by the federal government if the provisions are in place six days prior to the meeting of the electoral college.