New documents reveal how Sandra Day O’Connor helped George W. Bush claim victory in 2000

New documents reveal how Sandra Day O’Connor helped George W. Bush claim victory in 2000

Compared to the tensions and violence that followed the United States' 2020 presidential election, 2000's Bush v. Gore looks like a minor skirmish. Then-Vice President Al Gore, the Democratic presidential nominee, initially questioned his loss in Florida. But eventually, Gore conceded, acknowledged Republican George W. Bush as president-elect and offered his congratulations.

Whenever Gore was later asked if he believed the 2000 election was stolen from him, he would respond, without hesitation, that he considered Bush the loyal opposition. Gore criticized Bush from a policy standpoint during his eight years in office, but never questioned his legitimacy as president. Former President Donald Trump, in contrast, continues to make the false, thoroughly debunked claim that the 2020 election was stolen from him through widespread voter fraud.

But in 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court's controversial ruling in Bush v. Gore inspired a lot of heated debates. Joan Biskupic, CNN's Supreme Court analyst, looks back on Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's influence in Bush v. Gore in an article published on May 3.

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According to Supreme Court documents released on May 2, Biskupic emphasizes, Ronald Reagan appointee O'Connor, "provided the early framework that steered the outcome in the dispute over the 2000 presidential election and ensured George W. Bush would win the White House over Al Gore."

The High Court's 5-4 Bush v. Gore ruling, much to the chagrin of many Democrats, stopped county vote recounts in Florida. And all five of the justices in the majority were Republicans: O'Connor, fellow Reagan appointees Anthony Kennedy and Antonin Scalia, George H.W. Bush appointee Clarence Thomas and then-Chief Justice William Rehnquist (a Richard Nixon appointee).

"The documents opened at the Library of Congress help reveal how the now-retired O’Connor, the first woman on the High Court and a justice steeped in politics from her early days in the Arizona Legislature, partnered with Justice Anthony Kennedy, effectively squeezing out an argument advanced by then-Chief Justice William Rehnquist," Biskupic explains. "The strong hand of O'Connor, who was at the ideological center of the Court in this era, is not wholly surprising. O'Connor was also known for trying to get out ahead of deliberations, and her four-page memo was circulated to colleagues even before oral arguments."

The four dissenters included two Democratic appointees (Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer) and two GOP appointees (David Souter and John Paul Stevens).

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Biskupic notes, "O'Connor's views, expressed in a December 10, 2000, memo, were endorsed by fellow conservative-centrist Kennedy as he took the lead in writing the unsigned 'per curiam' opinion issued late on the evening of December 12, the new documents show. The shared views of O'Connor and Kennedy eventually forced Rehnquist to abandon his effort to author the main opinion with a boundary-pushing view of federal election principles — views that would come up during Donald Trump's attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election."

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Read Joan Biskupic's full CNN article at this link.

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