Lesson Plan

Campaigns and Elections: The 2000 Election


After the 2000 election night ended with no clear winner and exposed flaws in our voting system, there was a push for reforms to make elections run more smoothly. This 12-minute video introduces students to the turmoil and confusion of the Bush v. Gore election recount, and illustrates the surprising and unintended aftermath of that event: Instead of reforms, there was a change toward an even more politicized electoral process. Useful as an introduction to the Bush v. Gore election controversy, the video can also be used to set up a conversation about the past and future of voting rights and voter suppression.


  • How the 2000 presidential election was perceived and experienced by the citizens of that era.
  • How the controversy surrounding the disputed 2000 election failed to bring about a successful resolution of the country’s longstanding disputes over electoral procedure and voting rights.
  • How the Bush-Gore election of 2000 relates to modern disputes over voting rights and electoral reform.
  • Social Studies
  • U.S. History
  • Civics & Government
  • AP U.S. Government & Politics
  • Campaigns and Elections
  • The Modern Era (1980-Present)
  • 1990s America
  • George W. Bush
  • Supreme Court
  • Voting Rights
For Teachers

Introducing the Lesson

In 2000, the presidential election between George W. Bush and Al Gore was so close that it ended with a fiercely contested recount of Florida votes. After more than a month the Supreme Court stopped the recount (Bush v. Gore) and Bush was awarded Florida’s electoral votes. That spurred a bipartisan movement for electoral reform designed to prevent the type of nightmarish confusion that rocked the country for weeks after Election Day.

To that end, Congress passed the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) in 2003, which required states and municipalities to update their election procedures with electronic voting machines, improved methods of voter registration and better training for poll workers. But HAVA left it to each state to work out the details of its new rules, and the results were uneven. Some states rewrote their laws in ways that made it tougher for many people to cast ballots. Others eased access to the polls.

By 2011, many states had passed voter ID laws that were tougher than HAVA required. Those laws disproportionately affected the poor, the elderly and people of color, all groups that lean toward Democrats. Some Democrats charged that Republicans were trying to suppress the vote. Republicans countered that they were trying to ensure that everyone who voted had the legal right to do so. One legacy of the 2000 election is the modern day dispute over voting rights.

Essential Questions

  • Why did the Supreme Court stop the Florida recount?
  • What changes were made under HAVA (the Help America Vote Act)?
  • How did HAVA contribute to increased partisan polarization and politicization of the electoral process?

Lesson Procedure

  • Should voters be required to show a valid government-issued ID to be allowed to vote?
  • Which problem should we be more worried about, voter fraud or voter rights?
  • What historical experiences have caused some groups of people to have different views than others about ballot access and the right to vote?

Additional Resources

Transcript for "Bush v. Gore: How a Recount Dispute Affects Voting Today"Retro Report 
"16 Years After Bush v. Gore, Still Wrestling With Ballot-Box Rules"Retro Report 

Analyze a complex set of ideas or sequences of events and explain how specific individuals, ideas, or events interact or develop over the course of a text.

Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, as well as in words) in order to address a question or solve a problem.

Analyze multiple and complex causes and effect of events in the past.

Evaluate public policies in terms of intended and unintended outcomes, and related consequences.

Critique the appropriateness of the historical sources used in a secondary interpretation.

Skill 2.C: Explains the significance of a source’s point of view, purpose, and historical situation.

Theme 5: Politics and power (PCE).

Topic 5.3: Political Parties
Topic 5.8: Electing a President
Topic 5.9: Congressional Elections
Topic 5.10: Modern Campaigns

Questions? Tips? Concerns? Reach out to our Director of Education, David Olson: dolson@retroreport.com