Map of Florida with State of Florida seal coloring it in, a red line with a gold circle and pictures inside

Florida 2000 Case Study


In 2000, Democrat Al Gore, the incumbent Vice President, won the nationwide presidential vote tally by more than 500,000 votes. But for the first time since 1876, a Constitutional crisis arose over the alignment of the Electoral College. The final decision was thrown to the state of Florida (which had also been “in play” in 1876).

The Bush campaign was coordinated by Karl Rove. The Florida election was officially controlled by Republican Secretary of State Katherine Harris, who openly supported Bush as the co-chair of his election campaign.


The GOP campaign employed a wide range of tactics reminiscent of the Jim Crow era to cut into the turnout among tens of thousands blacks and Hispanics, who favored Gore by as much as 9:1. Among other things, state police and other law enforcement agencies physically intimidated potential voters in predominantly black areas of Orlando and elsewhere.

In largely Jewish areas of south Florida, where Gore and his vice-presidential candidate Joe Lieberman campaigned repeatedly, misleading “butterfly ballots” yielded large numbers of votes for Pat Buchanan, who is widely viewed as anti-Semitic. Many Jewish residents later realized votes they thought they had cast for Gore went to Buchanan instead, becoming the subject of Aviva Kempner’s classic documentary “Today I Voted for My Joey.”

In other predominantly Democratic areas around the state, shortages of voting machines and a lack of paper ballots slashed Gore’s vote count.

Nonetheless, early Election Day evening, exit polls and preliminary vote counts showed Gore as the clear winner. But a Constitutional crisis arose as the vote count suddenly became an extremely tight vote. The entire fiasco is based largely on complications with the electronic voter registration and voting process:

  • As the Florida polls closed, major networks reported that Al Gore was the winner. But as the count proceeded, the Fox network suddenly reported that Florida was “in play.”
  • A vote count “glitch” on Global Election Systems (later Diebold) machines in Volusia County, Florida, subtracted 16,022 votes from Gore, and added 4,000 votes for George W. Bush. Bush’s first cousin John Ellis, who had been hired as a Fox Network temporary election analyst, used the shift to proclaim that his cousin would win Florida and the presidency.
  • Bev Harris, author of Black Box Voting, posted a series of internal Diebold memos relating to the Volusia County miscount on her website, One memo from Lana Hires of Global Election Systems, now part of Diebold, complained, “I need some answers! Our department is being audited by the County. I have been waiting for someone to give me an explanation as to why Precinct 216 gave Al Gore a minus 16,022 [votes] when it was uploaded.” Another, from Talbot Ireland, Senior VP of Research and Development for Diebold, referred to key “replacement” votes in Volusia County as “unauthorized.”
  • Based on exclusive reporting by Bev Harris of Black Box Voting, and by award-winning journalist Greg Palast, the Nation Magazine reported that Florida Governor Jeb Bush (brother of GOP candidate George W. Bush) electronically purged Florida’s voter registration lists in a partisan manner. He used a secret proprietary computer program from a $4 million contract with Database Technologies (DBT) recently merged with ChoicePoint Inc. of Atlanta, which was the only bidder, to coordinate the definitive electronic purge. ChoicePoint has strong right-wing ties among its Board of Directors.
  • The contract was awarded in 1998 by a Republican legislature in league with then-Secretary of State Sandra Mothram, who later became Jeb Bush’s Lieutenant Governor. That August, Mortham was warned by the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections that there was a botched rush “to capriciously take names off the rolls.”
  • The purge involved 90,000 or more duly registered Florida voters, very far more than the 537 votes that allegedly decided the election for George W. Bush.
  • The purge affected primarily black and Hispanic citizens who vote overwhelmingly Democratic, and who would easily have turned the election to Gore.
  • The DBT list included thousands of citizens who had allegedly been convicted of felonies, but actually were not.
  • Many of the names on the DBT purge list came from other states, such as Alabama. There, a “John Jones” may have been convicted of a felony, while the “John Jones” in Florida was not, but the Florida John Jones was purged from the registration books anyway. In many cases, differing middle initials were ignored, as were differing suffixes such as “Junior” and “III.” Many such misidentified citizens had been lawfully registered for years and showed up to vote on November 7 at their traditional precincts but were told they were not registered and were not allowed to vote.
  • Many of the names on the DBT purge list were those of citizens who may have been felons in other states but had since moved to Florida, where their right to vote was not legally deniable. According to Palast’s report, criminal demographer Jeffrey Manza of Northwestern University said at least 80% of such citizens should have been legally granted the right to vote in Florida. But they were denied anyway. The number of rightfully eligible Florida voters purged based on names coming from Texas, Ohio and Illinois were, each on their own, sufficient to turn the election.
  • Palast reported that David Bositis, senior research associate at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies in Washington, DC, described the purge as “a patently obvious technique to discriminate against black voters.” Blacks, he said, would account for nearly half the “ex-felons” wrongly denied their vote.
  • In Hillsborough County, Florida, election supervisors confirmed that 54% of the lawful voters electronically denied their vote were black in a county where blacks comprised just 11% of the voting population.
  • Overall, DBT electronically “scrubbed” nearly 3,000 voters based on alleged felonies once possibly committed (or not at all) by citizens who came into Florida from at least eight states where their voting rights would have been automatically restored prior to coming to the Sunshine State.
  • One electronically scrubbed voter was Pastor Thomas Johnson of Gainesville, Florida. Johnson was pastor of the House of Hope, a faith-based charity that guided ex-convicts from jail into a working life. The program was praised by Johnson’s personal friend, Jeb Bush. Nonetheless, Pastor Johnson was denied the right to vote based on a New York felony from a previous decade.
  • The electronic purge proceeded despite previous federal court decisions ruling it illegal. Ultimately, the purge was key to putting George W. Bush in the White House.
  • Amidst a global media tsunami, “hanging chads” and other problems complicated the election recount. Violent (but well-dressed) GOP operatives stormed election boards in what were known as the “Brooks Brothers Riots.” Election officials were intimated and the process slowed, deepening the sense of a national crisis.
  • Amidst the chaos the crisis was “solved” by an inexplicable 5-4 vote of the US Supreme Court which stopped the recount and handed the presidency to George W. Bush. The Justices called this Bush v. Gore landmark a “one-time only” decision, not meant to set precedent. At least one pro-Bush Justice, Sandra Day O’Connor, later regretted her vote.
  • The Congressional Black Caucus appeared before the Senate where Gore was the presiding officer and attempted to challenge the Florida electoral vote but at Gore’s request, the Senate refused to allow it to be considered. Hillary Clinton told the Free Press that she wished the election would have been challenged.
  • A year later, more thorough recounts of the Florida vote were conducted by an independent media consortium. If the 175,000 so-called “spoiled ballots” had been counted, Gore would have won by approximately 29,000 votes.
  • In his later film An Inconvenient Truth, Gore jokingly mentioned that he was once “the next president of the United States.” But he did nothing to further research or publicize what actually happened in Florida and around the US with the electronic vote count and other irregularities that denied the will of the voting public and changed the course of history.
  • Post-2000 corporate media coverage largely blamed independent candidate Ralph Nader for turning the election from Gore to Bush. The media and Democratic mainstream ignored the fact that Gore actually won the election both in Florida and nationwide, but was deprived of the presidency by Jim Crow intimidation and electronic theft. Neither Gore nor the Democrats took effective steps to address either of these problems in the four-year lead-up to the next presidential election….or any time since.