This story is a part of our Back to the Future series on how key moments in the year 2000 influenced similar events in 2020.
Twenty years ago, America experienced one of the most contentious elections of the modern era. For over a month in the year 2000, we didn’t know the final outcome of our presidential election, and the courts had to step in to decide the winner of what was essentially a tie. It was the first election since 1888 where a significant difference between the popular and electoral votes led to widespread ballot recounts, legal maneuverings, and Supreme Court intervention that dragged on for over a month.
In essence, the election of 2000 saw sitting Vice President Al Gore leading over Texas Gov. George W. Bush by around 500,000 popular votes. But Bush led Gore in the Electoral College by only four votes. The decision ultimately came down to one state: Florida, where Bush’s brother Jeb was governor.
As the vote recount went on, the political vitriol — and incredible amounts of analysis — centered on how individual votes were counted at the ballot box and if they counted at all. Pundits at the time also discussed who votes, why they vote, and leaned on political appointments in lower and higher courts in order to finesse the outcome of the election. Given this history, as we march toward the voting booths (or mailbox) in the coming weeks, it is time to look at the links between the election of 2000 and the election of 2020.
The political climate at that time was fraught. Gore campaigned to promote a robust public education system and prevent climate change. Though he barely spoke to the president at that time, he stood in as a representative of the Bill Clinton years, a Democrat ushering in an expansion of social safety nets, reforming the criminal justice system, and continuing to build jobs for the future. Bush campaigned on trickle-down tax cuts, privatized health care, and increased testing in order to hold public schools accountable for outcomes. But ultimately, the “butterfly ballots” and “hanging chads” — terms to describe the kinds of ballots being recounted…