O'Connor wonders on wisdom of Bush v. Gore
April 29th, 2013
11:28 AM ET
10 years ago

O'Connor wonders on wisdom of Bush v. Gore

(CNN) – In one of those "what could have been" moments, former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor is expressing some misgivings about the controversial 2000 election decision that allowed George W. Bush to assume the presidency.

Speaking to the editorial board of the Chicago Tribune, O'Connor didn't question her own vote on the matter. But she did wonder whether it was wise for the high court to take on the case to begin with.

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

The 5-4 Bush v. Gore decision in December 2000 ended a manual vote recount in Florida that was mandated by the Florida Supreme Court, cementing Secretary of State Katherine Harris' certification of George W. Bush as the winner. With the Sunshine State in his column, Bush had secured enough electoral votes to win the White House.

O'Connor, who was appointed to the court in 1981 by President Ronald Reagan, voted in the majority. She retired from the Supreme Court in 2006.

The Bush v. Gore decision drew contentious and angry reaction from Democrats, who accused the justices of political partisanship. Bush v. Gore "stirred up the public" and "gave the court a less-than-perfect reputation," O'Connor told the Tribune.

"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's remarks to the Tribune aren't the first time she's thought back to the 2000 decision. She told CNN's Wolf Blitzer in 2010 that Bush v. Gore was "a hard decision to make," but that she didn't think a different outcome in the court would have resulted in a President Gore.

"There were at least three separate recounts of the votes, the ballots, in the four counties where it was challenged, and not one of the recounts would the decision have changed. So I don't worry about it," she told Blitzer.

Earlier this year, O'Connor told NPR's Terry Gross that she doesn't like to speculate on past decisions.

"I don't want to discuss things that I've done that require me to look back and say what if," she told Gross in March.

Of her specific vote in the case, O'Connor said "it's not anything I would want to weigh in on."

"There's no point in my, at this point, saying I regret some decision I made. I'm not going to do that," she continued.

Filed under: Supreme Court
soundoff (14 Responses)
  1. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House

    'We're not going to take it, goodbye.'"
    That's what you should have done. But no need to dwell on the past. You guys voted in favor of Bush and the country suffered behind that decision. That should keep you up at night.

    April 29, 2013 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  2. Pandamonius

    When you take the power of the vote out of the hands of the voters, you no longer have a true democracy

    April 29, 2013 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  3. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    The whole state should have been recounted and not just a few small portions.

    April 29, 2013 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  4. Jon

    Did you even read the rest of the piece? It wouldn't have mattered, except that Bush might not have been certified as the winner for a few extra weeks.

    April 29, 2013 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  5. Sniffit

    Like a country lamenting that first hit of crack it ever took. Unless and until 'Murikans decide to get rid of their addiction to tax cuts and trickle-down fairy tales, we're going to end up with POTUSes like Dubya who enact policies designed specifically to "starve the beast" and force reliance on idiotic randian daydreams of society working best if everyone just runs around myopically acting in their own narrow self-interests.

    April 29, 2013 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  6. Mickey1313

    This ruling was the beginning of the end of america. And equally bad is the court blocking state VOTER passed, anti immigration laws. The federal government refuses to do its job, then band states from protecting themselves. This court is a discrase, this nation only care about the 1%, and illigal aliens, disgusting and unacceptable

    April 29, 2013 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  7. Name lynn

    Sandra day we know that al gore won the president seats, the people did some under things gods seen what the people dont that year thats why storms, flooding. rain, an muds slides hit the cities, hard. We are not never trying to get another bush in the white house. By the way thats why we have president.

    April 29, 2013 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  8. Pander Bear

    A day late and a dollar short Sandy.

    April 29, 2013 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  9. ray

    She said the 4 or 5 counties ! Had the state been recounted Gore would've been president which would've meant no Iraq and possibly no 9/11

    April 29, 2013 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  10. Bob

    Amazing the utter lack of introspection on the right wing. bush doesn't have any regrets, Oconnor doesn't have any regrets... well kids, the REST of us sure do about you two!

    April 29, 2013 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  11. Marie MD

    Regardless we can't go back to not allow the worst president ever to rule for eight years with his puppet master and almost send the US into oblivion both militarily and financially.

    April 29, 2013 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  12. Tony

    Your decision made this country slipp into a ditch.I have a problem with right wingers they make decisions and then think after. they are not good for this country.

    April 29, 2013 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  13. 2012liberal

    Gore won the popular vote. Bush won electorial college. That's why we need straight popular vote. We dont do it 2 any other elected office. Shouldnt b that way 4 president either. Ppl may turn out 2 vote knowing their vote counted 4 something.

    April 29, 2013 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  14. rob

    "There were at least three separate recounts of the votes, the ballots, in the four counties where it was challenged, and not one of the recounts would the decision have changed. So I don't worry about it," she told Blitzer."

    End of story

    April 29, 2013 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |