The 2000 United States presidential election in Florida took place on November 7, 2000 as part of the greater 2000 United States presidential election.
Florida, a swing state, had a major recount dispute that took center stage in the election. Thus, the outcome of the 2000 United States presidential election was not known for more than a month after balloting, because of the extended process of counting and then recounting of Florida presidential ballots. State results tallied on election night gave 246 electoral votes to Republican candidate George W. Bush and 255 to 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 United States Supreme Court in Bush v. Gore, Governor George W. Bush officially won Florida's electoral votes, by a margin of only 537 votes out of almost 6 million cast, and as a result, the entire presidential election. The process was extremely divisive, and led to calls for electoral reform in Florida.
|Elections in Florida|
Initially Florida had been considered a fertile territory for Republicans. It was governed by Jeb Bush, a staunch conservative and George W. Bush's brother. Nonetheless the Republicans focused significant advertising resources in the large state, and later polls indicated that the state result was very much in play as late as September 2000. Some late momentum for Gore and his Jewish running mate Joe Lieberman may also have come from the significant Jewish population in southern Florida. Also, various Northern-born voters from reliable blue states in the Northeast had been migrating to Florida since the 1950s, as well as a growing Asian and Hispanic immigrant population, thus supplanting Republican gains in the state, and putting the state in play in 2000.
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.
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%.
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.
The controversy surrounding the 2000 Florida recount can be summarized in a post-election analysis by USA Today and the Miami Herald, which meticulously reviewed over 60,000 ballots in Florida’s 67 counties cast in that state. As reported by the Public Broadcasting System: "In the first full study of Florida’s ballots since the election ended, The Miami Herald and USA Today reported George W. Bush would have widened his 537-vote victory to a 1,665-vote margin if the recount ordered by the Florida Supreme Court would have been allowed to continue, using standards that would have allowed even faintly dimpled “undervotes” — ballots the voter has noticeably indented but had not punched all the way through — to be counted."
This same judgment was reaffirmed by The New York Times, which concluded that “A comprehensive review of the uncounted Florida ballots from last year's presidential election reveals that George W. Bush would have won even if the United States Supreme Court had allowed the statewide manual recount of the votes that the Florida Supreme Court had ordered to go forward.”
A similar study by The Washington Post came to the identical conclusion that George W. Bush would have won the election. “In all likelihood, George W. Bush still would have won Florida and the presidency last year if either of two limited recounts -- one requested by Al Gore, the other ordered by the Florida Supreme Court -- had been completed, according to a study commissioned by The Washington Post and other news organizations.”
Still other major American news organizations echoed this conclusion. “According to a massive months-long study commissioned by eight news organizations in 2001, George W. Bush probably still would have won even if the U.S. Supreme Court had allowed a limited statewide recount to go forward as ordered by Florida’s highest court. Bush also probably would have won had the state conducted the limited recount of only four heavily Democratic counties that Al Gore asked for, the study found.” Paradoxically, the only theoretical chance Gore had of winning Florida’s electoral votes might have come from a state-wide recount, which might have given him a victory of between 42 to 171 votes out of 6 million cast. However, Gore never asked for such a recount.
The controversy began on election night, when the national television networks, using information provided to them by the Voter News Service, an organization formed 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). 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". Gore made a concession phone call to Bush the night of the election, then retracted it after learning just how close the election was.
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.
The Florida election has been closely scrutinized since the election, and several alleged 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, although the same ballot was successfully used in the 1996 election with no post-election protests. 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. The clear presumption here is that had these individuals with criminal backgrounds been able to express themselves at the polls, their likely choice would have been the Democratic candidate, as indicated by a study in the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. 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.
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:
There is evidence that allegedly 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. However, this evidence is disputed. For this to be true, rather than following an arrow to the proper hole to be punched to select their candidate, these voters simply punched the first available hole they found and assumed that would result in a ballot being cast for the Democratic candidate.
The number of ballots marked for Buchanan in Palm Beach County was allegedly 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, some commentators and observers have asserted that 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. A review of these ballots by eight major American news organizations following the 2000 election have not borne out these results.
Representatives of Buchanan's campaign and the Reform Party estimated Buchanan's true vote total at between 400 and 1,000 votes. How this conclusion was arrived at by the Buchanan campaign, whose namesake had a long history of at times visceral opposition to the Bush family, has not been documented.
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.
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. But it would be strange for someone's two candidates to be Gore and Buchanan, given how dissimilar the two candidates were. An opposing theory is that these voters were not confused by the ballot but simply believed that they could vote for two candidates. The "multiple hole" theory is unique, in that it would be a clear deviation from the "one man, one vote" underpinnings of all US elections, and required voters to assume that in 2000, for the first time in US history, multiple candidates for president could be selected. Since there are no reported cases of any voter seeking help or clarification over this alleged confusion, the theory has been widely discounted. On the other hand, to believe that thousands of Gore voters actually voted for Buchanan, we have to presume that voters did not follow an arrow to the proper hole to cast their vote, and instead punched the first hole they saw believing they were voting for their candidate. Since previous elections utilizing the butterfly ballot reported no such mass confusion, the more likely scenario[according to whom?] is that—given the results of post-election analyses indicating that George W. Bush actually picked up additional votes when Florida ballots were counted—these voters actually cast their ballot for the actual candidate of their choice.
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. However, statistical models are inherently limited in predicting the actual behaviors of individual voters in an election, and even more so in predicting their motives for casting their ballots. In actual practice, people cast their votes for a variety of reasons, and assigning motives to individual people after-the-fact is an inherently flawed way to determine the truth of a matter. Even as recent as 2014, the landslide Republican victory in the midterm elections has been the subject of much debate as to whether it represents an affirmation of Republican policies, a rejection of Obama Administration policies, or nothing of any significance at all. Stating absolutely why voters acted the way they did, even with the assistance of exit polling (of which there was virtually none concerning those who used the butterfly ballot), is usually the purview of partisan politics. Those who supported Gore saw confusion in the ballot. Those who did not came to opposite conclusions.
A 2010 article in the respected Washington newspaper The Hill asked why people vote. Their answer was that "People vote for a variety of reasons. They don't vote for just one." Apart from positive, pro-active reasons, reasons The Hill gave for people voting included because they are "mad" (i.e., protest votes), voting "strategically" for a certain candidate or party, voting simply on the basis of a candidate's appearance or name, and voting as a civic duty with no real investigation of a candidate's policies or preferences. Simply because a constituency in one part of the country voted a certain way in the last election does not, therefore, mean that all their future votes are subsequently predictable. The Democratic House and Senate of 2008 has been replaced with a Republican House and Senate six years later precisely because each election is unique, and each voter's motives for casting his/her ballot changes with the passage of time.
Buchanan said on The Today Show, November 9, 2000: "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." He, unlike the voters, did not see the ballot before Election Night.
Although Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer said on November 9, 2000 that "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 by calling that "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."
The ballot was redesigned earlier that year by Theresa LePore (Supervisor of Elections, and member of the Democratic Party). She said that 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.
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.
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. The county canvassing board would then decide whether to recount as well as the method of the recount in those three precincts. If the board discovered an error, they were then authorized to recount the ballots.
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 George H. W. Bush's former Secretary of State James Baker to oversee their legal team, and the Gore campaign hired Bill Clinton's former Secretary of State Warren Christopher.
The canvassing board did not discover any errors in the tabulation process in the initial mandated recount.
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 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This ruling stopped the vote recount, allowing Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris's certification of the election results to stand. This allowed Florida's electoral votes to be cast for Bush, making him the winner.
and running mate
|George W. Bush–
|Patrick J. Buchanan–
Ezola B. Foster
Gloria La Riva
Mary Cal Hollis
Miriam E. Lancaster
|Ken C. McCarthy–
Bush won 15 of 23 congressional districts.
|4th||66%||34%||Tillie K. Fowler|
|22nd||48%||52%||E. Clay Shaw Jr.|
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.
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 and the Washington Post.
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.
|Candidate outcomes based on potential non-absentee recounts in Florida presidential election 2000
(outcome of one particular study)[clarification needed]
|Review of all ballots statewide (never undertaken)|
|•||Standard as set by each county canvassing board during their survey||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|
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.
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. Under all other standards, Bush won, with Bush's margin increasing as looser standards were used. The standards considered by BDO Seidman were:
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.
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.
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. 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.
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.
Including overvotes in the above totals for undervotes gives different margins of victory:
As stated by Lance DeHaven Smith in his interview with Research in Review at Florida State University:
A nationwide December 14–21, 2000 Harris poll asked "If everyone who tried to vote in Florida had their votes counted for the candidate who they thought they were voting for -- with no misleading ballots and infallible voting machines -- who do you think would have won the election, George W. Bush or Al Gore?". The results were 49% for Gore and 40% for Bush with 11% unable to make up their mind or not wishing to respond.
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.
The electors of each state and the District of Columbia met on December 18, 2000 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.
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:
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.
Remember last week's ugly protest of the hand recount? Elián all over? Guess again — Washington GOP operatives were running this circus.