Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, whose decision to vote with the majority in the 5-4 Bush v. Gore decision ended the 2000 presidential election recount, said Friday in an interview with the Chicago Tribune that she's not sure the court should have heard the case.
The ruling overturned a previous decision by the Florida Supreme Court that ordered a recount of state ballots. Republican George W. Bush was declared the victor over Democrat Al Gore with a 537-vote margin in the state.
"Maybe the court should have said, 'We're not going to take it, goodbye,'" O'Connor told the Tribune's editorial board. "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."
The decision enraged Gore's supporters. The Democratic candidate won the national popular vote, but lost the Electoral College after Florida's 25 electoral votes were awarded to Bush.
Ralph Nader, the Green Party presidential candidate in the 2000 election who was accused by some Democrats of spoiling Gore's chances, was pleased by O'Connor's remarks.
"Sandra Day O'Connor is right to express a variety of doubts about this judicial coup d'état," Nader told U.S. News. "The brazen Bush v. Gore 5-4 selection of George W. Bush was the most partisan, political, constitutionally violative decision in American legal history."
"It was not the voters for the Green Party that decided this election," Nader added. "It was the Scalia gang of five that put Bush in the White House."
Gore's media contact did not respond to a request for comment.
The decision, O'Connor told the Tribune, "stirred up the public" and "gave the court a less than perfect reputation."
O'Connor was appointed to the Supreme Court by President Ronald Reagan in 1981. She was the first female justice and previously served as the Republican majority leader of the Arizona state senate. She retired from the court in 2006.