Sandra Day O'Connor: Bush v. Gore may have been 'mistake'

Posted By Kristen Butler,  |  Updated April 30, 2013 at 10:53 AM
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Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor expressed doubts about the 2000 Bush v. Gore Supreme Court decision that led to the election of George W. Bush.

In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, O'Connor said she isn't sure the Supreme Court should have even taken the case.

"It took the case and decided it at a time when it was still a big election issue. Maybe the court should have said, 'We're not going to take it, goodbye.'"

The Florida Supreme Court ordered a manual recount on Dec. 8, 2000, of all Florida votes in the presidential election between Vice President Al Gore and Bush. "Hanging chads" would be the butt of jokes for years to come, after many Florida citizens say they punched their ballots for the wrong candidate.

But a 5-4 Supreme Court majority, including O'Connor, ordered an injunction the next day. The Supreme Court ruled on Dec. 12 in a decision "limited to the present circumstances" that the Florida recount was unconstitutional, giving Bush the presidency.

"Obviously the court did reach a decision and thought it had to reach a decision," she said. "It turned out the election authorities in Florida hadn't done a real good job there and kind of messed it up. And probably the Supreme Court added to the problem at the end of the day."

O'Connor, who was appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1981, was the first woman to serve on the high court, and was often a swing vote. Her vote in Bush v. Gore led to the unusual circumstance of the eventual winner having failed to win a plurality of the popular vote.

The case, she said, "stirred up the public" and "gave the court a less-than-perfect reputation."

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