It was pretty close – boiled down to a few hundred votes in Florida. If Bush carried the state, he’d win the Electoral College by one vote. If not, Gore would win.
In the long recount process, Gore missed a bet. What he should have done was call for a statewide recount and argue that ballots that were technically spoiled, but where intent was unambiguous, should be counted. There were many such votes, in which someone punched for a presidential candidate and also wrote in that same name.
That sure sounds fair. It would have favored Gore, probably enough to win, because black voters voted 90% for the Democrats, and black voters make more mistakes, just as they have lower scores on every kind of standardized test. As Linda Gottfredson once said, “Life is an IQ test”. There were many allegations of various of voter fraud, discrimination, etc. but that’s not what happened. The effect is general.
The error rate varied with the voting method: Florida used punch cards, optical scans, paper ballots, and voting machines in different counties. The “residual vote” rate was different for different methods, but the black error rate was always higher. There have been several journal articles about this in the 2000s, but I knew it at the time. In part, this was because I had seen it in action in California: Ballots for Jesse Jackson were particularly likely to be messed up, in the 1984 primary.