TEXT ON SCREEN: November 7, 2000
ARCHIVAL (CNN, 11-7-00):JUDY WOODRUFF: A big call to make, CNN announces that we call Florida in the Al Gore column.
ARCHIVAL (CBS, 11-8-00):DAN RATHER: Turn the lights down, the party just got wilder.
ARCHIVAL (ABC, 12-14-00):PETER JENNINGS: Florida goes to Mr. Bush.
ARCHIVAL (CBS, 11-8-00):DAN RATHER: Bush wins, headline of the hour.
ARCHIVAL (CBS, 11-8-00):DAN RATHER: Ah folks, it might be premature.
ARCHIVAL (NBC, 11-8-00):TOM BROKAW: So we take Florida away from George W. Bush.
ARCHIVAL (CBS, 11-8-00):BOB SCHIEFFER: This is no longer an election, this is like Alice in Wonderland.
JEFFREY TOOBIN: The one thing no one expected in a presidential campaign is that we wouldnt know who won on Election Day.
ARCHIVAL (CBS, 11-10-00):PROTESTERS: Count our votes! Count our votes!
TOVA ANDREA WANG: Bush versus Gore was a watershed moment where the curtain was lifted on our election system in the United States and we realized weve got to do something to fix it. And in some ways Congress did. But then there were the unintended or possibly intended consequences.
VOTING WARS: AFTER BUSH V. GORE
ARCHIVAL (CBS, 11-8-00):BRYANT GUMBEL: If you are just waking up and just tuning in, you should know that after a long night of swing votes the presidential race is frankly still too close to call.
NARRATION: On November 8th, Kurt Browning, the Supervisor of Elections for Pasco County, woke to shocking news.
ARCHIVAL (ABC, 11-8-00):PETER JENNINGS: The vote is now so close between them that there will be an automatic recount
KURT BROWNING (SUPERVISOR OF ELECTIONS FOR PASCO COUNTY, 1981 2006): What are you talking recounts? Im-Im in bed. Theres no recounts going on. And literally, within three hours, we were in the throes of a recount.
ARCHIVAL (ABC, 11-8-00):ERIN HAYES: The tug of war for the Presidency is now down to the most local of politics. Counties in Florida, precincts in Florida, where the recount has begun.
ARCHIVAL (CONUS, 11-23-00):ELECTION WORKER: 5A-11 is a vote for Gore.
NARRATION: Under intense media scrutiny the flaws in Floridas system became clear.
ARCHIVAL (ABC, 12-13-00):ERIN HAYES: Vote-a-matic machines and conflicting rules about ballots, and fuzzy rules about what is a vote.WOMAN: Its slightly detached.
ARCHIVAL (NBC, 11-8-00):KERRY SANDERS: Democrats charge a confusing ballot layout led voters to think they were punching the ballot for Al Gore, when they were actually voting for Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan.
ARCHIVAL (ABC, 11-8-00):WOMAN: 3,500 people did not vote for Pat Buchanan. Come on this is heavily Democratic Palm Beach County.
ARCHIVAL (NBC, 11-9-00):JAMES BAKER: It is a ballot that was approved by an elected Democratic official, and hey, guess what, there were no complaints, until after the election.
NARRATION: As both campaigns launched lawsuits over the disputed results, accusations of partisanship fueled the tension.
ARCHIVAL (CBS, 12-13-00):MAN: Can I ask you a question maam, did you vote?WOMAN: I voted, whether or not my vote counted I dont know.
ARCHIVAL (NBC, 11-14-00:TOM BROKAW: The question of who will be the next president is right on her desk. Shes the secretary of state, Katherine Harris.KATHERINE HARRIS: As secretary of state, I am chief elections officer.
ARCHIVAL (ABC, 11-14-00):REPORTER: Harris was the state co-chair of George Bushs presidential campaign. Today, Governor Jeb Bush said shes doing a good job.JEB BUSH: I think shes doing the right thing.REPORTER: Political insiders say there is no evidence Harris is being manipulated by the Bushes.
JEFFREY TOOBIN (AUTHOR, TOO CLOSE TO CALL /STAFF WRITER, THE NEW YORKER): What I think people didnt realize before 2000 is that the people running the elections had a huge stake in the outcome.
NARRATION: While each campaign battled it out in court, the recounts dragged on.
ARCHIVAL (ABC, 12-13-00):ELECTION OFFICIAL: I need to make this record.ELECTION OFFICIAL: You dont need to make a record.ELECTION OFFICIAL: I do need to make the record.
KURT BROWNING: We were in the middle of a final recount when somebodys phone in the room rings.
NARRATION: Thirty-six days after the election, the U.S. Supreme Court brought everything to a halt.
ARCHIVAL (NBC, 12-12-00):TOM BROKAW: It does appear quite clear that George W. Bush, the elder son of a former president, is going to be the president-elect of this country with the 25 electoral votes from Florida.
NARRATION: The Court declared that the recounts violated the 14th Amendments Equal Protection Clause because there was no uniform standard for counting all ballots.
ARCHIVAL (NBC, 12-13-00):GEORGE W. BUSH: Good morning.
JEFFREY TOOBIN: The overwhelming consensus after 2000 was that our electoral machinery was broken.
ARCHIVAL (CBS, 12-13-00):PROTESTERS: We say fight back!
JEFFEY TOOBIN: We did not run elections as well as we should, and we should fix that.
NARRATION: In the fall of 2002, Congress passed a sweeping reform bill The Help America Vote Act, or HAVA.
ARCHIVAL (C-SPAN, 10-4-02):SENATOR DODD: For the very first time the national government will step up to the plate and meet its constitutional duty to uphold the soundness and sanctity of the ballot in this country.
ARCHIVAL (CBS, 10-17-02):DAN RATHER: This bill would provide almost four billion dollars, much of it to individual states, to replace old voting machines, train poll workers and combat fraud.
JEFFREY TOOBIN: The heart of the reform was a promise to improve voting machines, to make the machines work better. That, more or less, has been kept, but a whole series of new problems were injected.
ARCHIVAL (C-SPAN, 10-16-02):SENATOR BOND: The bill attempts to address one of my key concerns and that, of course, is the issue of voter fraud.
NARRATION: Senator Kit Bond led a Republican effort to fight potential fraud by requiring ID from first time voters who registered by mail.
LORRAINE C. MINNITE (ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF PUBLIC POLICY, RUTGERS UNIVERSITY-CAMDEN): Senator Bond used to talk about a little dog in St. Louis getting registered to vote, named Ritzy Meckler.
ARCHIVAL (C-SPAN, 10-04-02):SENATOR BOND: I have great respect for the dead and I love dogs. I dont think either ones should vote.
NARRATION: While HAVA set minimum voting standards, it was up to the states to enact the reforms, and by 2011 many were passing voter ID laws that were tougher than what HAVA required. Florida already had one when Representative Dennis Baxley took office.
DENNIS K. BAXLEY: (FLORIDA HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES): I think voter identification is just a responsible act. If I go to a bank, I expect them to verify and protect my money and make sure Im the one getting it.
ARCHIVAL (FOX, 5-13-04):REPORTER: You cant buy a beer, board a plane or even rent a movie without showing proper ID. But voting? In most states all you need is a name.
JEFFREY TOOBIN: The idea that fraud is a bad thing is appealing to everyone, and so how can you object to fighting it? The complexity comes when you dig beneath the surface and find out there is essentially no such thing as voter fraud and it is simply a way of making it harder to vote for constituencies that traditionally lean Democratic.
TOVA ANDREA WANG (SENIOR DEMOCRACY FELLOW, DEMOS): There are people who dont have the voter identification that they want to require and they are hugely disproportionately African Americans, Latinos, naturalized citizens. And those groups tend to vote for Democrats.
ARCHIVAL (FOX, 5-13-04):ANCHOR: Are they really trying to keep certain people from voting at all?
DENNIS K. BAXLEY: It became a lightning rod issue as people perceived that we were up to some nefarious project of depriving people of their vote. I couldnt dream of anything farther from the truth. We want it easy to vote and hard to cheat.
NARRATION: Multiple investigations have found little evidence of the kind of voter fraud that ID laws target, but Republicans say its hard to uncover and even a few cases are too many and they say Democrats are hyping stories of voter suppression to help their own turnout.
ARCHIVAL (NBC, 10-13-04):REPORTER: Republicans say voter suppression is a myth, made up by Democrats to fire up minority voters.
NARRATION: Wendy Weiser, who tracks election law for the Brennan Center, says its hard to fully quantify how much voter turnout is being affected. But she says early studies show some impact, and the 2000 election made it clear that even a few thousand votes can have big consequences.
WENDY R. WEISER (DIRECTOR, DEMOCRACY PROGRAM, BRENNAN CENTER FOR JUSTICE): Tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of voters, here or there, can really determine election outcomes. Politicians saw that small manipulations of the rules of elections can really make a difference.
ARCHIVAL (CNN, 9-23-12):JOE JOHNS: In the last two years almost every state in the country has introduced or passed some type of change or restriction to the voting laws.
NARRATION: In 2011 in Florida, Kurt Browning had become the states top election officer and saw firsthand what happened when the voting rules were changed.
ARCHIVAL (WPTV, 5-18-11):REPORTER: Governor Rick Scott is expected to sign a bill that would drastically change Floridas election laws.
ARCHIVAL (CNN, 11-5-12):PROTESTERS: Let us vote!
NARRATION: A Republican-led effort to cut early voting and later purge non-citizens from the voting rolls became national news.
ARCHIVAL(ABC, 5-20-11):ANCHOR: Supporters say the law will prevent fraud. But voting rights groups say it is a blatant effort to suppress voting.
KURT BROWNING: Id sit here oftentimes, when I was an elections supervisor, saying, Why is this so difficult? Why is this so hard? And I will tell you what makes it hard. Its the politics. The candidates are all out to make sure that their voters are getting registered and their voters are voting.
NARRATION: Browning left office before the election, and the new law was blamed, in part, for long lines at the polls and a vote count that took four days.
ARCHIVAL (NBC, 11-10-12):REPORTER: Florida voters, who were in lines up to seven hours on Election Day, say the entire process is embarrassing.
ARCHIVAL (COMEDY CENTRAL, DATE UNKNOWN, REBROADCAST ON ABC, 11-8-12):JON STEWART: Florida tonight remains too close to call. So where is the good news you say? Here it is: the election was decided without them.
NARRATION: Nearly 16 years after Bush v. Gore, the voting wars show no sign of slowing.
ARCHIVAL (REUTERS/WASHINGTON POST, 1-5-16):DONALD TRUMP: This voting system is out of control. You have people, in my opinion, that are voting many, many times.
ARCHIVAL (FOX, 6-5-15):HILLARY CLINTON: Stop fear mongering about a phantom epidemic of election fraud.
ARCHIVAL (CNN, 6-7-15):REPORTER: Hillary Clinton courts African-American voters with a call for automatic voter registration.
ARCHIVAL (MSNBC, 6-5-15):CHRIS CHRISTIE: My sense is that she just wants an opportunity to commit greater acts of voter fraud.
ARCHIVAL (C-SPAN, 10-8-15):BERNIE SANDERS: In Republican states there is a very concerted effort to suppress the vote.
NARRATION: At least 16 states have new voting restrictions this presidential election a trend fueled by a 2013 Supreme Court decision that threw out part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which had protected the rights of minority voters in certain states.
WENDY R. WEISER: The two biggest drivers of restrictive voting laws are partisanship and race. The greater the increase in political participation by minority voters and the greater the Republican control of the state, the more likely the state is to pass laws cutting back on voting rights.
NARRATION: At the same time, a handful of states are making it easier to vote, with automatic registration and mail-in voting, meaning that where a person lives and which party controls that state can determine how easy or hard it is to vote.
WENDY R. WEISER: We cant just rest our entire voting rights in the hands of politicians. Whether their self-interest is expanding voting access or restricting voting access, their motives are not going to be pure.
JEFFREY TOOBIN: What people thought Bush v. Gore did was expose a problem that politicians could solve. What in fact it did was it exposed an opportunity that politicians could exploit. And thats really been the most important legacy of Bush v. Gore.