Bush v. Palm Beach County Canvassing Board

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Bush v. Palm Beach County Canvassing Board
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
Argued December 1, 2000
Decided December 4, 2000
Full case name Bush v. Palm Beach County Canvassing Board et al.
Citations 531 U.S. 70 (more)
121 S. Ct. 471; 148 L. Ed. 2d 366; 2000 U.S. LEXIS 8087; 69 U.S.L.W. 4020; 2000 Cal. Daily Op. Service 9599; 14 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 19
Prior history Motion denied, Fla. Cir. Ct., November 17, 2000; matter certified to Florida Supreme Court, Fla. Ct. App.; sub nom. Palm Beach County Canvassing Bd. v. Harris, 772 So. 2d 1220 (Fla. 2000); cert. granted, 531 U.S. 1004 (2000)
Decision vacated and case remanded for clarification
Court membership
Chief Justice
William Rehnquist
Associate Justices
John P. Stevens · Sandra Day O'Connor
Antonin Scalia · Anthony Kennedy
David Souter · Clarence Thomas
Ruth Bader Ginsburg · Stephen Breyer
Case opinions
Per curiam.

Bush v. Palm Beach County Canvassing Board, 531 U.S. 70 (2000), was a United States Supreme Court decision involving Florida voters during the 2000 presidential election. In this case, the U.S. Supreme Court requested clarification from the Florida Supreme Court regarding a decision it had made. Shortly after the Florida Supreme Court provided those clarifications, the U.S. Supreme Court resolved the election in favor of George W. Bush over Al Gore in the case of Bush v. Gore.


The 2000 presidential election was contingent upon who won the popular vote in Florida. Republican George W. Bush was narrowly ahead in the tally. Democrat Al Gore challenged the decision of Katherine Harris, Florida's Secretary of State, to certify Bush as the winner on November 14 (a deadline established by Florida statute). Gore asserted that Harris had disregarded manual recount results in four Florida counties. The Florida Supreme Court responded to Gore's challenge by holding that Harris had to wait until November 26 to certify the winner, and that she must include the manual recount results. Bush then appealed the Florida Supreme Court decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Issues before U.S. Supreme Court[edit]

The Court was faced with two questions. First, did post-election court decisions in Florida violate the Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution or 3 U.S.C. § 5? Second, did the Florida Supreme Court violate Article II of the United States Constitution, which confers plenary power in federal election matters on state legislatures, when the Florida Supreme Court allegedly changed the manner in which Florida's electoral votes were chosen?


The Court unanimously held that there was "considerable uncertainty" as to the reasons for the Florida Supreme Court's decision. Therefore, the Court declined to review the questions presented, instead vacating the Florida Supreme Court decision and remanding the case for clarification of two questions. First, to what extent did the Florida Supreme Court see the Florida Constitution as circumscribing the legislature's authority under Article II of the federal Constitution? Second, how much consideration did the Florida Supreme Court give to a relevant federal statute, namely 3 U.S.C. § 5?