Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor waves to the crowd during centennial events at the State Capitol February 14, 2012. Michael Chow/The Arizona Republic
David Jackson, USA TODAY
It's one of the great what-ifs of history.
What if the Supreme Court had not taken the George W. Bush vs. Al Gore case after the 2000 election?
That question is now being asked by a very prominent figure in that landmark case: Then-Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.
"Maybe the court should have said, 'we're not going to take it, goodbye,'" O'Connor told the Chicago Tribune editorial board.
Instead, the decision that basically stopped the Florida recount and enabled Bush to claim the presidency "stirred up the public" and "gave the court a less-than perfect reputation," O'Connor said.
What would have happened otherwise? Would Bush still have prevailed after the Florida recount? Would the state have sent separate Bush and Gore delegations to the Electoral College? Would the contest have gone to the House of Representatives?
We'll never know, thanks to the Supreme Court.
"Obviously the court did reach a decision and thought it had to reach a decision," said O'Connor, 83, who retired from the court in 2005.
She added: "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."