Most of the post-electoral controversy revolved around Gore's request for hand recounts in four counties as provided under Florida state law. Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris announced she would reject any revised totals from those counties if they were not turned in by November 14, the statutory deadline for amended returns. The Florida Supreme Court extended the deadline to November 26, a decision later vacated by the U.S. Supreme Court. Miami-Dade eventually halted its recount and resubmitted its original total to the state canvassing board, while Palm Beach County failed to meet the extended deadline. On November 26, the state canvassing board certified Bush the victor of Florida's electors by 537 votes. Gore formally contested the certified results, but a state court decision overruling Gore was reversed by the Florida Supreme Court, which ordered a recount of over 70,000 ballots previously rejected by machine counters. The U.S. Supreme Court quickly halted the order. On December 12, the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that the Florida Supreme Court's plan for recounting ballots was unconstitutional.
It also directed by a 5-4 vote that the Florida recounts cease and that the previously certified total would hold. The Supreme Court ruled 7'' 2 that the Florida Supreme Court's decision, calling for a statewide recount, violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Court stated that the Equal Protection clause guarantees individuals that their ballots cannot be devalued by "later arbitrary and disparate treatment". Even if the recount was fair in theory, it was unfair in practice. The record suggested that different standards were seemingly applied to the recount from ballot to ballot, precinct to precinct, and county to county. According to the 7'' 2 per curiam opinion, the statewide standard (that a "legal vote" is "one in which there is a 'clear indication of the intent of the voter could not guarantee that each county would count the votes in a constitutionally permissible fashion. The per curiam opinion stated that its applicability was "limited to the present circumstances, for the problem of equal protection in election processes generally presents many complexities."
Part of the reason recounts could not be completed was the various stoppages ordered by the various branches and levels of the judiciary, most notably the Supreme Court itself. Opponents argued that it was improper for the Court to grant a stay that preliminarily stopped the recounts based on the possibility of irreparable harm and success on the merits.
Essentially, Bush argued that the Florida Supreme Court's interpretation of Florida law was so erroneous, that their ruling had the effect of making new law. Since this "new law" had not been directed by the Florida legislature, it violated Article II. Bush argued, however, that Article II gives the federal judiciary the power to interpret state election law for itself to ensure that the intent of the state legislature is followed. Gore argued that Article II presupposes judicial review and interpretation of state statutes, and that the Florida Supreme Court did nothing more than exercise the routine principles of statutory construction in order to reach its decision. The Court asserted that "the Supreme Court of Florida has said that the legislature intended the State's electors to participate fully in the federal electoral process. Court therefore effectively ended the election, because "the Florida Legislature intended to obtain the safe-harbor benefits of 3 U. S. C. §5."
The Voter News Service's reputation was damaged by its treatment of Florida's presidential vote in 2000. Breaking its own guidelines, VNS called the state as a win for Gore 12 minutes before polls closed in the Florida panhandle. Although most of the state is in the Eastern Time Zone, counties in the Florida panhandle, located in the Central Time Zone, had not yet closed its...