After many years, former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor expressed doubt Friday about the decision to take the 2000 Bush v. Gore case that resulted in the election of President George W. Bush.
“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,'” O’Connor told the Chicago Tribune editorial board in an interview.
“Obviously the court did reach a decision and thought it had to reach a decision. 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,” she said.
The Florida Supreme Court ordered a manual recount on Dec. 8, 2000, of all Florida votes in the 2000 presidential election between Vice President Al Gore and Bush, then the governor of Texas. 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.
O’Connor, now 83, retired in 2006, and Bush replaced her with the substantially more conservative Justice Samuel Alito, an opponent of abortion rights, unlike O’Connor. Her comments to the Tribune seemed much more regretful than others she has made about Bush v. Gore since her retirement. In 2011, she told the Aspen Ideas Festival that the outcome wasn’t the “end of the world.” “They had recounts of the votes in four counties by the press, and it did not change the outcome at all. So forget it. It’s over!” she added.
Former Justice John Paul Stevens called the Bush appeal “frivolous” in his memoir. Justice Antonin Scalia has said simply, “get over it.”