Will 2000 Repeat Itself?

The election of 2020 will go down in history for its drama, controversy, and lack of adherence to precedent. However, those who remember the election of 2000 between Democrat Al Gore and Republican George W. Bush experienced a similar turbulent period. Upon reviewing aspects of the 2000 election and comparing them to those of our current election, they nearly mirror each other.


Although 20 years have passed, the results of the 2000 election have startling similarities to our current situation. Amidst the pandemonium spurred by Florida, state officials conducted a manual recount of all polling machines in order to determine the true winner. Unfortunately, doing so only revealed more problems. The Florida ballots, known as “butterfly ballots,” employed a system of punching a hole next to a candidate’s name in order to vote for them. However, they were confusing to use, which officials believe resulted in voters accidentally selecting the wrong candidate or having their vote thrown out if the holes were not punched all the way through. Due to the current pandemic, the use of mail-in voting has soared, with a total of 90.4 million absentee ballots sent out or requested. Just like butterfly ballots, mail-in ballots have complex requirements in order to be counted, with some states like Pennsylvania requiring the ballot to be placed in a secrecy envelope inside of the actual ballot envelope. If something on the ballot is missing, such as a signature or the aforementioned secrecy envelope, it has to be thrown out. Because of the lack of clarity regarding the parameters a ballot must follow in order to count, the Supreme Court in 2000 ruled the entire recount unconstitutional, resulting in George W. Bush’s victory. Alternatively, if the issue of what constitutes a legal mail-in ballot is taken to the Supreme Court, the Court will likely rule on precedent and decide the winner of the presidential election once again. 


The possibility of such a scenario is incredibly likely, though, as absentee ballots have already been challenged in court. After Montana employed a universal mail-in voting system, in which all registered voters of the state were sent an absentee ballot automatically, the Trump campaign sued the state for inviting “fraud, coercion, theft, and otherwise illegitimate voting.” In addition, the millions of voters disenfranchised by a Supreme Court decision that rules in favor of the Trump campaign will disproportionately be Democrats. Democrats have requested far more mail-in ballots than Republicans, displayed by the whopping proportional difference of 78% to 22% of absentee ballots in Delaware respectively, so Trump’s lawsuits threaten the validity votes mainly for his opponent. Unfortunately, the probability of the Supreme Court making a decision that results in President Trump’s victory is very likely if the events of 2000 repeat themselves. In 2000, the Supreme Court ruled along ideological lines, with the five conservative justices ruling to dismiss the recount and announce Bush as the winner. With a 6-3 conservative court, it is almost certain that President Trump would be announced the winner under the aforementioned circumstances if the case reaches the Supreme Court. 


Regardless of political affiliation, it is deeply upsetting to consider the possibility of the Supreme Court deciding the victor of a presidential election once again. The Supreme Court is designed to be the branch of government that is absent from any political interference in order to ensure its absolute fairness. By entangling the judicial branch among political affairs, not once but twice, the sanctity of the court is ruined.