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11.04 Contested Elections and the Electoral College

John Prtichett's satire of the 2000 presidential election

From the presidential election of 1800 up to the present day, indirect election of the president through the Electoral College has been controversial. In two disputed elections the winner lost the popular vote, but won the Electoral College - in 1876 it was Ohio Republican Senator Rutherford B. Hayes over New York Governor Samuel J. Tilden, and in 2000 George W. Bush beat Al Gore. Ironically, both Hayes and Bush won the Electoral College vote based on a disputed popular vote in Florida.

The day after the 1876 election it appeared that Tilden, the Democrat, had won, but Republican election boards in Louisiana, South Carolina, and Florida, where attacks by white supremacists against African American voters was widespread, invalidated enough votes seemingly to swing the election to Hayes. The deadlock was broken by a bipartisan Electoral Commission 22that ruled 8-7 on March 2, 1877 to award Hayes 185 electoral votes to Tilden's 184. This decision was part of a deal called the Compromise of 1877 in which federal troops were removed from the South (thus ending Reconstruction), southern Democrats gained federal patronage jobs, and federal subsidies were granted to southern railroads.

1876 President Campaign Banner for the Republican Ticket of Hayes/Wheeler.

The Gore-Bush election of 2000 also pivoted on the state of Florida, where Bush appeared to have won a narrow plurality of the vote. However, his victory was tarnished by faulty punch card ballots, butterfly ballots, and accusations that African American votes had been suppressed. Recounts ensued, but after Florida's Secretary of State awarded the Electoral College votes to Bush, the final word was left to the U.S. Supreme Court on December 13, 2000. In a 5-4 decision the Court made Bush president by stopping the recount. George W. Bush, like Hayes before him, had been elected president of the United States by Electoral College votes, not by the people.

A Campaign kerchief for the Democratic Tilden/Hendricks ticket in the 1876 presidetial campaign.




















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