By Jacqueline K. Winters
On Sept. 26, less than two months before the election, President Donald Trump announced Amy Coney Barrett as his nominee for the Supreme Court. Considering Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s plans to swiftly move forward with the confirmation process and begin hearings on Oct. 12, it is likely that the Senate will confirm Barrett, a conservative and former clerk of Antonin Scalia’s, before the November election. Meanwhile, President Trump is employing rhetoric about voter fraud and a rigged election—likely positioning himself to bring an Electoral College battle in front of the Court. If history is precedent, a 6–3 conservative versus liberal Supreme Court composition would undoubtedly lend itself to a more favorable outcome for President Trump. The American public should anticipate that the confluence of these circumstances could result in Bush v. Gore2.0—but this time, the battle may extend well beyond hanging chads.
There are a number of scenarios that could lead to the Supreme Court determining the fate of this election. One example, presented by Edward Foley of Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law, would take place in the swing state of Pennsylvania. If Trump is in the lead on election night, but Biden-friendly mail-in ballots flood in during the days following the election, a volatile partisan dispute could erupt. In this scenario, Democratic Governor Tom Wolf could sign Pennsylvania’s certificate of ascertainment and list Democratic electors as the official Electoral College slate, while the Republican-led legislature appoints a different set of electors—a scenario that would result in legal challenges, possibly making its way up to the Supreme Court. However, the Electoral Count Act of 1887 delegates the power to Congress to consider both sets of electors. Vice President Mike Pence could oversee the count in Congress, determining that Pennsylvania’s votes should be removed because the electoral slates conflict, causing Democrats to seek an injunction to stop this discount of Pennsylvania’s votes. This is merely one illustration of partisan-fueled chaos that could ensue if there is a small margin between President Trump and Vice President Joe Biden on election night—a scenario ominously reminiscent of the 2000 election, but in an even more sharply divided political climate.
On Dec. 12, 2000, The United States Supreme Court announced in a 5–4 decision that the Supreme Court of Florida had violated the United States Constitution when it ordered a ballot recount in certain Florida districts. In this historic decision, which resulted in George W. Bush assuming the presidency, the Court contended that the ballot recount violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment because Florida counties were shifting vote-counting standards. The Court’s decision reversed the Florida Supreme Court’s decision and stayed the manual recount of 42,000 “undervotes”—ballots on which automatic machine recounts had failed to detect a vote and which had not yet been manually recounted. The decision was premised on the notion that the recount procedures—based on the clear intent standard, which required “‘a clear indication of the intent of the voter’”—“did not satisfy [the] minimum requirement for non-arbitrary treatment of voters necessary, under the Equal Protection Clause, to secure [the] fundamental right to vote for President.”
Since the 2000 decision, a holding the Court explicitly stated was “limited to the present circumstances,” the precedential value of Bush v. Gore has been decidedly weak. In Stewart v. Blackwell, pertaining to Ohio’s use of punch card ballots and central-count optical scan systems, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio’s relied upon Justice Souter’s dissent in Bush v. Gore to determine that different counties within the same state using different systems does not amount to a violation of the Equal Protection Clause. The Sixth Circuit disagreed, reversing and remanding the district court’s decision. In 2008’s Lemons v. Bradbury, a plaintiff argued in front of the Ninth Circuit that county election officials lacking uniform statewide rules for verifying referendum signatures violated the rule set forth in Bush v. Gore. The Ninth Circuit disagreed, stating that Oregon’s verification process did not violate voters’ constitutional rights.
In large part, lower court decisions that have relied on Bush v. Gore have generally been overturned or limited, and until 2013, when Justice Clarence Thomas cited the case in a footnote of a dissenting opinion in an Arizona voter-registration case, the Supreme Court had not cited the case for any proposition. Recently, however, President Trump and his campaign have invoked the case in legal battles in Nevada and New Jersey, undoubtedly in preparation for mounting a Bush v. Gore-inspired argument in front of the Supreme Court in November.
President Trump’s continued efforts to challenge the legitimacy of mail-in voting—despite the FBI’s findings that there is no evidence of any foreign plot to counterfeit or forge mail ballots—are likely representative of his willingness to be fiercely litigious in November. With a more-likely-than-not conservative Court and murky-at-best precedent, the November election will prove an uphill battle for Democrats. The precedential value of Bush v. Gore will be in the spotlight for the first time since 2000, and the Supreme Court will possibly provide clarity on this debated issue—potentially changing the course of American presidential elections for generations to come.
 Peter Baker & Nicholas Fandos, Trump Announces Barrett as Supreme Court Nominee, Describing Her as Heir to Scalia, N.Y. Times (Sept. 26, 2020), https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/26/us/politics/amy-coney-barrett-supreme-court.html.
 Deirdre Walsh, What Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court Nomination Means for the 2020 Election, Nat’l Pub. Radio (Sept. 27, 2020, 7:00 AM), https://www.npr.org/2020/09/27/917303199/what-amy-coney-barretts-supreme-court-nomination-means-for-the-2020-election.
 Miles Parks, Ignoring FBI and Fellow Republicans, Trump Continues Assault on Mail-In Voting, Nat’l Pub. Radio (Aug. 28, 2020, 12:46 PM), https://www.npr.org/2020/08/28/906676695/ignoring-fbi-and-fellow-republicans-trump-continues-assault-on-mail-in-voting.
 Jeet Heer, Trump Wants Another ‘Bush v. Gore,’ The Nation (Sept. 23, 2020), https://www.thenation.com/article/politics/trump-court-election-vacancy/.
 531 U.S. 98 (2000).
 Geoffrey Skelley, What If Trump Loses and Won’t Leave?, FiveThirtyEight (Sept. 14, 2020, 9:15 AM), https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/what-if-trump-loses-and-wont-leave/.
 Id.; see Electoral Count Act, ch. 90, 24 Stat. 373 (1887) (codified as amended at 3 U.S.C. §§ 5–7, 15–18).
 Skelley, supra note 7.
 Dean Bonner, Voter Registration Is Up Sharply, as Is Partisanship, Pub. Pol’y Inst. of Cal. (Aug. 27, 2020), https://www.ppic.org/blog/voter-registration-is-up-sharply-as-is-partisanship/.
 Bush v. Gore, 531 U.S. 98, 103 (2000).
 Id. at 106.
 Id. at 100.
 Id. at 131.
 Id. at 98.
 Id. at 109.
 Chad Flanders, Please Don’t Cite This Case!: The Precedential Value of Bush v. Gore, 116 Yale L.J. Pocket Part 141, 144 (2006), https://www.yalelawjournal.org/forum/please-dona8217t-cite-this-case-the-precedential-value-of-bush-v-gore.
 Stewart v. Blackwell, 356 F. Supp. 2d 791 (N.D. Ohio 2004), rev’d in part, vacated in part, 444 F.3d 843 (6th Cir. 2006), vacated as moot, 473 F.3d 692 (6th Cir. 2007).
 Id. at 808.
 Stewart v. Blackwell, 444 F.3d 843, 880 (6th Cir. 2006), vacated as moot, 473 F.3d 692 (6th Cir. 2007).
 538 F.3d 1098 (2008).
 Id. at 1105.
 Id. at 1107.
 Richard L. Hasen, The 2012 Voting Wars, Judicial Backstops, and the Resurrection of Bush v. Gore, 81 Geo. Wash. L. Rev. 1865, 1867 (2013).
 Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Ariz., Inc., 570 U.S. 1, 35 n.2 (2013) (Thomas, J., dissenting); see Joan Biskupic, Trump Revives Bush v. Gore in His Crusade Against Mail-In Voting, CNN Pol. (Aug. 24, 2020), https://edition.cnn.com/2020/08/24/politics/supreme-court-bush-gore-trump-lawsuits/index.html.
 United States District Court Judge James Mahan dismissed the Trump campaign’s case in Nevada, stating that a law that calls for mail-in ballots to be sent automatically to all active Nevada voters in light of the coronavirus pandemic did not demonstrate any constitutional harms. See Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. v. Cegavske, No. 20-CV-1445, 2020 WL 5626974, at *7 (D. Nev. Sept. 18, 2020); see also Michelle L. Price, Judge Dismisses Trump Challenge to Nevada Mail Voting Law; Associated Press (Sept. 21, 2020), https://apnews.com/article/nevada-lawsuits-elections-voting-fraud-and-irregularities-campaigns-17adaf09734fd720b1a1477451f2540c; Biskupic, supra note 27.
 See Complaint for Declaratory & Injunctive Relief at 155, Donald Trump for President, Inc. v. Murphy, No. 20-CV-10753, (D.N.J. Aug. 18, 2020), ECF No. 1; see also Biskupic, supra note 27.
 Parks, supra note 4.