Between the 7 November election and 12 December, the nation had witnessed a series of court challenges and legal maneuverings. Gore's camp argued that a confusing "butterfly ballot" in Palm Beach County and a surprising number of "under-votes" throughout the state—ballots that recorded no vote when fed through the vote-counting machines—should be manually recounted. Florida law allowed for such a procedure; in fact, Florida law stated that county election boards should try to determine the "intent" of the voter when the machine failed to read a poorly marked ballot.
But the Bush camp argued that the resulting spectacle of county officials scrutinizing individual ballots—sometimes with a magnifying glass—to determine if the voter had attempted to make an impression on the ballot was a farce and should be ended. And on 12 December, the United States Supreme Court agreed. Of course, they did not put it quite that way. Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy argued that the current recount was not guided by a uniform standard and consequently threatened the Fourteenth Amendment's guarantee of equal protection under the law. Two justices in the minority, Stephen Breyer and David Souter, also felt that the Florida Supreme Court's failure to establish a governing standard when they ordered the recount on 8 December was a problem—but their solution was to remand, or return, the case to the Florida court for clarification. But Kennedy and the others in the majority had no patience for this solution. They seem moved by the logic of Justice Antonin Scalia that extending the recount did "irreparable harm" to the apparent winner, George Bush, by "casting a cloud upon . . . the legitimacy of his election."blank" rel="nofollow">Bush v. Gore, Court watchers identified Kennedy as the swing vote. His questions during oral arguments suggested that he was still undecided as to how he would rule—whether he would side with Scalia, who believed a quick resolution to the Florida fiasco was critical, or with Stevens, who argued that the Court had historically refrained from intervening in issues of this sort.
Ultimately, Kennedy sided with Scalia. The question is: was democracy best served?