The Election of 2000
The last election that needed to be decided by means other than the Electoral College took place very recently, in 2000. It all came down one state and that state's method of counting votes.
The state in question was Florida, and the election was eventually decided by the Supreme Court.
The Democratic Party's nominee was Vice-President Al Gore. A presidential candidate himself back in 1988, Gore had served as vice-president for both of President Bill Clinton's terms. As such, he was both a champion of Clinton's successes and a reflection of his failures.
The Republican Party's nominee was George W. Bush, governor of Texas and son of former President George Bush. he campaigned on a platform of a strong national defense and an end to questionable ethics in the White House.
The election was hotly contested, and many states went down to the wire, being decided by only a handful of votes. The one state that seemed to be flip-flopping as Election Day turned into Election Night was Florida.
In the end, Gore won the popular vote, by nearly 540,000 votes. But he didn't win the electoral vote.
The vote was so close in Florida that a recount was necessary under federal law. During the recount, election officials discovered a series of regularities involving what made an official ballot. Computer recounts gave Bush a 327-vote lead for the entire state, which in all case 6 million votes. The difference between the two candidates's totals was so close, though, that Florida officials ordered a recount by hand.
A series of legal maneuvers followed, including the following:
Florida Secretary of State Kathleen Harris sets a deadline for the recount
Election officials in counties where vote totals were disputed worked as hard as they could to count ballots before the deadline
The Florida Supreme Court extends Harris's deadline but also weighs in in favor of as much recounting as can possibly be done by that new deadline
The U.S. Supreme Court orders a halt to the recount and rules that the most recent vote total, which favored Bush, be certified as official.
As a result, all recounts of votes in Florida were stopped Bush was ruled to have won Florida by 930 votes and then awarded Florida's electoral votes, giving him 271, one more than he needed to win. Gore had 266. It was the closest Electoral College election since 1876.
Graphics courtesy of ArtToday