The Bush-Gore Recount Is an Omen for 2020Breaking News
tags: George W. Bush, Florida, elections, presidential history, Al Gore, 2000
Twenty years ago this fall, the United States was plunged into 36 days of turmoil as lawyers, judges, political operatives, and election workers grappled with the uncertain result of the presidential contest in Florida. Whoever won the state would win the presidency. In the end, after start-and-stop recounts and the intervention of courts at every level, Texas Governor George W. Bush, the Republican candidate, was declared the victor, edging out Vice President Al Gore, the Democrat.
The story of the 2000 Florida recount offers a reminder of just how chaotic the electoral process can become—and of how disarray in a single state can undermine faith in the democratic process nationwide. The U.S. Constitution gives individual states the responsibility for conducting elections. Rules and procedures vary widely. Today, at a time far more polarized than two decades ago, not just one but every state faces potential challenges to the integrity of its electoral process. In many states, the balloting technology is antiquated. And in many states, registering to vote has deliberately been made harder, especially for the poor and people of color. A continuing shift toward widespread voting by mail—accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic—seems likely to provoke lawsuits based on discredited claims that the practice spurs voting fraud.
A cause for truly legitimate concern is something else entirely: whether the U.S. Postal Service can handle the expected volume and return marked ballots to election officials in time for them to be counted in November’s national elections. On August 13, in an interview on Fox News, President Donald Trump declared his opposition to providing the financially troubled USPS with additional funding, giving as an explicit reason a desire to hamper mail-in voting, which he had previously said “doesn’t work out well for Republicans.” The USPS has already announced plans for cutbacks in service across the board. On August 14, The Washington Post reported that the Postal Service had informed 46 states and the District of Columbia that it could not guarantee that mailed-in ballots could be delivered in time to be counted.
The account here, drawn from interviews with more than 40 people with firsthand experience of the Florida-recount saga, is both a history and a warning.
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