From the moment the polls opened, it was painfully clear that something was wrong. While the media seized on the controversy surrounding the poorly designed "Butterfly Ballot", much larger civil rights abuses were overlooked.
Focusing on events leading up to election day of 2000 and the attempt to count legally cast votes in the days that followed, "Unprecedented: The 2000 Presidential Election" examines a suspicious pattern of irregularities, injustices and voter purges, all in a state governed by the winning candidate's brother.
The day after the election, a startling picture emerged. George W. Bush was ahead by a razor-thin margin. But a disquieting number of ballots, 175,000, went unread by the ballot-counting machines. There were also allegations of Republican staffers disrupting recounts in the backdrop of one of the most dramatic finales in presidential history. The evidence shows manipulation by Governor Jeb Bush, Secretary of State, Katherine Harris, and other Republican state officials in a variety of means.
With the Bush camp trying hard to avoid a recount and Republican staffers sent to protest and intimated election officials and they abandoned the recount. Meanwhile, a remarkable courtroom drama played out. Attorneys for Al Gore appealed to the Florida Supreme Court, which eventually ordered a manual recount of the state's undervotes; votes in which the machines interpreted the voters intent as having cast a vote for no presidential candidate. In turn, the Bush team went directly to the federal courts to halt this effort. Their aim was to have this case heard before the United States Supreme Court.
In the end, the U.S. Supreme Court overruled the Florida Court, halting the recount and casting doubt on the outcome of the 2000 Presidential Election.
A year later, a consortium of U.S. media organizations published the results of an exhaustive study of all of Florida's unread ballots. The consortium concluded that had all these ballots been counted and the discernable votes been tallied, Al Gore would be the 43rd President of the United States.
"Unprecedented: The 2000 Presidential Election" is a cautionary tale, warning us that we must insists our elections be conducted in a manner above reproach, that all legitimate voters may exercise their franchise, and all legal votes must be counted. Anything less undermines our faith in democracy.