Introduction: Linking Election Law and Electoral Politics
After thirty-five days of madness, confusion, legal wrangling, and political posturing, the Supreme Court finally brought the spectacle of the 2000 presidential election to an end with their decision in Bush v. Gore. In a highly controversial 5-4 ruling, the Court voted to end all recounts, arguing that the various standards used by Florida counties for recounting punch-card ballots violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Headlines across the country, such as the Boston Globe’s “Supreme Court Compromises Its Legitimacy,”1 the New York Daily News’s “High Court’s Integrity at Risk,”2 and the San Francisco Chronicle’s “Turbulent Election Taints Top Court’s Reputation for Neutrality,”3 condemned the Court’s ruling and raised questions about its involvement in the electoral process. In his national column, journalist E. J. Dionne simply asked, “Supremely Partisan, Will the High Court Besmirch Itself?” Even Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens recognized the danger of the Court’s ruling. “Although we may never know with complete certainty the identity of the winner in this year’s presidential election, the identity of the loser is perfectly clear,” wrote Stevens in his dissenting opinion. “It is the nation’s confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law” (quoted in Walsh 2000).