New documents show how Sandra Day O’Connor helped George W. Bush win the 2000 election

By | May 3, 2023

CNN reports:

Justice Sandra Day 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, Supreme Court documents released on Tuesday show.

Memos found in the newly opened files of the late Justice John Paul Stevens offer a first-ever view of the behind-the-scenes negotiations on Bush v. Gore at the court. They also demonstrate the tension among the nine justices being asked to decide a presidential election on short deadlines.

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.

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. Her move may have guaranteed that she and Kennedy had the greatest influence on the final “per curiam” opinion that spoke for a five-justice majority.

That final 5-4 Bush v. Gore decision stopped county recounts for Florida’s decisive presidential electors and gave then-Texas Gov. Bush the victory over then-Vice President Gore. [Continue reading…]