In Bush v. Gore (2000), a divided Supreme Court ruled that the state of Florida's court-ordered manual recount of vote ballots in the 2000 presidential election was unconstitutional. The case proved to be the climax of the contentious presidential race between Vice President Al Gore and Texas Governor George W. Bush. The outcome of the election hinged on Florida, where Governor Bush led Vice President Gore by about 1,800 votes the morning after Election Day. Because the returns were so close, Florida law called for an automatic machine recount of ballots.
The recount resulted in a dramatic tightening of the race, leaving Bush with a bare 327-vote lead out of almost 6 million ballots cast. With the race so close, Florida law allowed Gore the option of "manual vote recounts" in the counties of his choosing. Gore opted for manual recounts in four counties with widespread complaints of voting machine malfunction: Broward, Miami-Dade, Volusia, and Palm Beach.
However, Florida law also required that the state's election results be certified by the Secretary of State, Katherine Harris, within seven days of the election (by November 14, 2000). Three of the four counties, frantically laboring through the tedious manual recount, were unable to complete the process by the deadline.
On November 14, however, a Florida circuit court ruled that while Secretary Harris must respect the deadline, she could legally amend the certified results, at her own discretion, to reflect any late returns from the outstanding counties. Harris promptly announced that she would entertain late returns only if their tardiness was justified by each county in writing by 2 p.m. the following day (November 15). The three outstanding counties-Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, and Broward- immediately sent an explanation for the delay.
Secretary Harris, however, rejected their explanations and announced that the final Florida vote count would be announced Saturday, November 18, 2000. On November 16, both Vice President Gore and Palm Beach County filed for an injunction against Secretary Harris to prevent her from certifying the election until the three counties could finish their recounts.
The Florida Supreme Court issued the injunction on November 17, and on November 21 ruled that Secretary Harris must allow the counties until November 26 to finish their recounts.Meanwhile, Miami-Dade stopped manually counting ballots, allegedly certain that it could not complete its recount by the November 26 deadline. Gore sought but failed to obtain a court order for Miami-Dade to continue counting. On November 26, with, at this point, just 537 votes separating Bush and Gore, Secretary Harris certified the election for Bush.