(CNN) — In one of those “what could have been” moments, former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor is expressing some misgivings about the controversial 2000 election decision that allowed George W. Bush to assume the presidency.
Speaking to the editorial board of the Chicago Tribune, O’Connor didn’t question her own vote on the matter. But she did wonder whether it was wise for the high court to take on the case to begin with.
“It took the case and decided it at a time when it was still a big election issue,” O’Connor told the Tribune. “Maybe the court should have said, ‘We’re not going to take it, goodbye.'”
The 5-4 Bush v. Gore decision in December 2000 ended a manual vote recount in Florida that was mandated by the Florida Supreme Court, cementing Secretary of State Katherine Harris’ certification of George W. Bush as the winner. With the Sunshine State in his column, Bush had secured enough electoral votes to win the White House.
O’Connor, who was appointed to the court in 1981 by President Ronald Reagan, voted in the majority. She retired from the Supreme Court in 2006.
The Bush v. Gore decision drew contentious and angry reaction from Democrats, who accused the justices of political partisanship. Bush v. Gore “stirred up the public” and “gave the court a less-than-perfect reputation,” O’Connor told the Tribune.
“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.”
O’Connor’s remarks to the Tribune aren’t the first time she’s thought back to the 2000 decision. She told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer in 2010 that Bush v. Gore was “a hard decision to make,” but that she didn’t think a different outcome in the court would have resulted in a President Gore.
“There were at least three separate recounts of the votes, the ballots, in the four counties where it was challenged, and not one of the recounts would the decision have changed. So I don’t worry about it,” she told Blitzer.
Earlier this year, O’Connor told NPR’s Terry Gross that she doesn’t like to speculate on past decisions.
“I don’t want to discuss things that I’ve done that require me to look back and say what if,” she told Gross in March.
Of her specific vote in the case, O’Connor said “it’s not anything I would want to weigh in on.”
“There’s no point in my, at this point, saying I regret some decision I made. I’m not going to do that,” she continued.
By Kevin Liptak
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