The Electoral College vote has aligned with the popular vote in all presidential elections except for four: 1824, 1876, 1888 and 2000. Al Gore had over 500,000 more votes than George W. Bush.
The Electoral College results came down to the twenty-five electors from Florida. (George Bush’s brother Jeb was currently governor of Florida.) The vote count in Florida was within 2,000 votes between the two candidates, triggering an automatic, state-wide machine recount of the ballots. This recount led to a further tightening of the gap between the two candidates, and Al Gore requested a hand recount in four counties that had reported voting irregularities. Secretary of State Katherine Harris became a key figure as she was the chief of elections for the state and able to halt recounts. Harris had served as the co-chair of Bush’s Florida campaign.
On November 26, Harris certified the election results in Bush’s favor, with the 537-vote margin mentioned on this panel. The Gore legal team sued the secretary of state, concerned about the illegitimacy of the results, particularly in the case of ballots that did not register a vote for president (dubbed undervotes). The case was dismissed by a local court, but the Florida Supreme Court ruled in favor of Gore. Bush then appealed to the US Supreme Court, who found in his favor, ending the legal wrangling and resulting in Bush being inaugurated the next month as president. The court’s decision was 5-4 and fell along party lines, leading many to question the neutrality of the Supreme Court.
While the subsequent Miami Herald review of the recount did find that Bush would have won with three out of four possible vote-count standards, other, larger reviews produced mixed results. The election highlighted contradictory state election laws, standards, and voter directions.