Sandra Day O'Connor's Second Thoughts About Bush v. Gore

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Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
April 29 2013 1:06 PM

Sandra Day O'Connor Is Still Having Second Thoughts About Bush v. Gore

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Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States (Ret.) Sandra Day O' Connor.

Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images

Sandra Day O'Connor, one of five justices who voted in the majority on Bush v. Gore, said on Sunday that maybe the Supreme Court shouldn't have taken that case at all. Here's what the retired justice told the Chicago Tribune's editorial board:

"It took the case and decided it at a time when it was still a big election issue," O'Connor said during a talk Friday with the Tribune editorial board. "Maybe the court should have said, 'We're not going to take it, goodbye.'" The case, she said, "stirred up the public" and "gave the court a less-than-perfect reputation."
"Obviously the court did reach a decision and thought it had to reach a decision," she said. "It turned out the election authorities in Florida hadn't done a real good job there and kind of messed it up. And probably the Supreme Court added to the problem at the end of the day."
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O'Connor, who was often the court's swing vote, effectively cast the deciding vote in the case that cleared the way for George W. Bush to take office. But this isn't the first time she's expressed something approaching second thoughts about her decision. Last year, O'Connor told CBS's Face the Nation that the case might be the starting point in a plunge for public support for the high court, which she characterized as a "great disappointment" for her:

"There's been some suggestion, again by poll-takers, that that trend down for the judicial branch began with the Bush-Gore decision. That was one that was widely talked about at the time, as you know, and involved the public in a presidential election. And that could be something that triggered public reexamination."

The retired justice also expressed doubts on her decision in the case in 2010, saying "it was a hard decision to make." But, O'Connor added then, she didn't feel that allowing the recounts to continue would have changed the result of the election.

Abby Ohlheiser is a Slate contributor.

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