This article analyzes how Florida's state election laws operated during the aftermath of the 2000 presidential election. The intersection of law and politics in this controversy was critical. Political considerations affected decisions in both the Bush and Gore camps. The aftermath of the 2000 election found the federal government, the National Conference of State Legislatures, and the State of Florida (among others) commissioning task forces and committees to investigate and suggest election reforms.
Ultimately, the State of Florida passed significant election reform legislation. On May 10, 2001, Florida enacted sweeping election reform legislation entitled the Florida Election Reform Act of 2001. This legislation overhauls and reforms many sections of Florida's election code and addresses reform of voting equipment, ballot uniformity, and poll worker training. Critics, including the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, argue that the new legislation fails to address some of the critical issues of voter disenfranchisement.
Most importantly, this article analyzes the events in Florida following the litigation that culminated in Bush v. Gore— the aftermath and its consequences—and concludes that the state's new elections laws will prohibit a future crisis of the kind seen in the 2000 presidential election. In Part II, this article sets out the specific factors that caused Florida to become the epicenter of the 2000 election controversy. In Part III, this article further describes the Florida perspective and the theory of “counting the votes” which is derived from Florida case law and concludes that Bush v. Gore was correctly decided by the Florida Supreme Court as a matter of Florida law. In Part IV, this article discusses the recent electoral reform legislation enacted by the State of Florida, concluding that these changes will improve the election system in Florida. Under these new reforms, there will never again be a “hanging chad” in Florida because punch card ballots have been eliminated from further use in Florida elections. Despite the anger and confusion aroused by the electoral controversy in Florida, these struggles will ultimately improve the election process in the state of Florida and most likely the nation as a whole.
Jon L. Mills, Florida on Trial: Federalism in the 2000 Presidential Election, 13 Stan. L. & Pol’y Rev. 83 (2002), available at http://scholarship.law.ufl.edu/facultypub/523