Presidential election goes to the House of Representatives

Presidential election goes to the House of Representatives



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As no presidential candidate had received a majority of the total electoral votes in the election of 1824, Congress decides to turn over the presidential election to the House of Representatives, as dictated by the 12th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

In the November 1824 election, 131 electoral votes, just over half of the 261 total, were necessary to elect a candidate president. Although it had no bearing on the outcome of the election, popular votes were counted for the first time in this election. On December 1, 1824, the results were announced. Andrew Jackson of Tennessee won 99 electoral and 153,544 popular votes; John Quincy Adams—the son of John Adams, the second president of the United States—received 84 electoral and 108,740 popular votes; Secretary of State William H. Crawford, who had suffered a stroke before the election, received 41 electoral votes; and Representative Henry Clay of Kentucky won 37 electoral votes.

READ MORE: What Happens If There's a Tie in a US Presidential Election?

As dictated by the Constitution, the election was then turned over to the House of Representatives. The 12th Amendment states that if no electoral majority is won, only the three candidates who receive the most popular votes will be considered in the House. Representative Henry Clay, who was disqualified from the House vote as a fourth-place candidate, agreed to use his influence to have John Quincy Adams elected. Clay and Adams were both members of a loose coalition in Congress that by 1828 became known as the National Republicans, while Jackson’s supporters were later organized into the Democratic Party.

Thanks to Clay’s backing, on February 9, 1825, the House elected Adams as president of the United States. When Adams then appointed Clay to the top cabinet post of secretary of state, Jackson and his supporters derided the appointment as the fulfillment of a corrupt agreement.

With little popular support, Adams’ time in the White House was largely ineffectual, and the so-called Corrupt Bargain haunted his administration. In 1828, he was defeated in his reelection bid by Andrew Jackson, who received more than twice as many electoral votes than Adams.

READ MORE: The Complete List of U.S. Presidential Elections


What happens if the House has to decide the next president?

The unlikely scenario has been discussed by the president and Nancy Pelosi.

Election year 2020 by the numbers

A bitterly divided country deadlocked in a 269-269 Electoral College tie turns to the House of Representatives to select the next president.

The unusual constitutional scenario is considered so far-fetched -- it hasn't happened since 1824 -- that it was written into the plot of the fifth season of HBO comedy series "Veep" and its send-up of the political class.

But in a year when coronavirus-related voting changes could have an unpredictable impact on an already competitive presidential race between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, it's a potential, if remote, election outcome Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have openly acknowledged.

"I don't want to end up in the Supreme Court and I don't want to go back to Congress either, even though we have an advantage," Trump said of the election at a Sept. 26 Pennsylvania rally.

Pelosi fired back in a letter to House Democrats two days later, encouraging members to support candidates in "key districts" across the country.

"If Trump can't win at the ballot box, he wants the House to deliver him the presidency," she wrote. "It's sad we have to plan this way, but it's what we must do to ensure the election is not stolen."

Republicans hold advantage in the House

Under the Constitution's 12th Amendment, the House would select the next president and the Senate would pick the vice president if no candidate has a majority of Electoral College votes.

By law, states have until Dec. 8 to certify their results or have the state legislature appoint electors to the Electoral College, which is set to convene on Dec. 14. Congress is set to formally count electors' votes and declare a winner on Jan. 6.

In the scenario of a tie, each state would only have a single vote in the House of Representatives. The party with more House seats would determine the presidential vote.

Republicans control 26 state delegations, while Democrats hold 23. Pennsylvania is split between both parties, and Republicans also have a chance to break even with Democrats in Michigan and Minnesota if they capture one additional seat in each state.

That math is on the minds of Democratic leaders, donors and strategists in the final weeks of the election. With most Democratic candidates in Trump-leaning districts flush with cash and leading Republican challengers in public and private polling, the party is working to expand the map and give the party a broader path to securing their House majority.

That includes investments in suburban contests in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Florida, but also in newly competitive races in rural Montana and Alaska, which each have a single seat in Congress and were carried by Trump by 15% to 20% in 2016.

Democrats control the delegations of several competitive presidential battleground states -- such as Arizona, Iowa, Minnesota and Nevada -- by a single seat, while Republicans have a single-seat advantage in Florida.

Pelosi 'prepared' for every election scenario

Pelosi decided to acknowledge the scenario of the House deciding a contested election in a public letter to colleagues after Trump repeatedly mentioned the possibility and amid his refusal to commit to a peaceful transfer of power.

"I had been working on this for a while. I've been working on almost every scheme he might have to steal the election. And kind of sub rosa -- since he went public, then so did I," she said in a late-September MSNBC appearance of Trump's comments about the House determining the outcome of the election.

In addition to signaling Democrats' preparations for any election outcome, Pelosi's comments also served as a reminder to Democrats and donors not to lose sight of competitive House races amid the presidential contest.

"It's helpful to remind donors and other groups that the presidential race gets a ton of attention, the Senate gets a ton of attention, and we have to take all of the steps available to us to make sure we aren't missing these opportunities," Caitlin Legacki, the communications director for the Democratic House Majority PAC, told ABC News, referring to securing more seats in the House.

Kyle Kondik, the managing editor of Sabato's Crystal Ball, a political newsletter published by the University of Virginia Center for Politics, said it would be "unlikely" the presidential race would end in an Electoral College tie, noting Biden's consistent lead over Trump for several months in national and battleground state polls, but sketched out several possible scenarios based on the results of the 2016 election.

One would involve Biden winning every state carried by 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, flipping Michigan and Pennsylvania and carrying the electoral vote from Nebraska's 2nd Congressional District. (Nebraska and Maine, unlike other states, award Electoral College votes by congressional district in addition to allocating electoral votes to the state's popular vote winner.)


If The Presidential Election Goes To The House Of Representatives President Trump Wins

People who have any commonsense at all know that President Trump won the Presidential election. He was way ahead in most of the swing states when we went to sleep and in the morning most of those leads vanished. An 80,000 vote lead vanished in Pennsylvania alone. All the swing states had the same discrepancies it being hundreds of thousands of suspicious ballots, many of them 96% up to 100% for Biden were dumped into the count in the wee hours of the morning after election day in swing states and the counting had been “stopped” with the intention of fraud it being many dead people voted with the indication of fraud it being absentee ballots were received back at the counting center before they were even sent out with the intention of fraud it being observers were blocked, some by cardboard sheets, pizza boxes, or social distance, with the intention of fraud. These are just a few examples with many whistleblowers involved. With all this doubt I cant see how it doesn’t go to the House of Representatives to determine the Presidency.

The following was posted by WND Staff, published by WND: “The Founders recognized that elections could be corrupted or stolen. They established the Electoral College as a safeguard and empowered state legislatures to ensure the integrity of the election. Lawful voters expect state legislators to do their constitutional duty to ensure that the lawful votes of the people as cast are honored — not diluted or debased by systemic fraud.”

“Constitutional scholar Alan Dershowitz suggested a path for victory for Trump by challenging state certifications and causing enough to remain in question that Biden would not get the required 270 votes with the Electoral College meets.”

“He said that if “enough electoral votes are still being contested by mid-December, and if fewer than 270 electors are certified by their respective states by that date, then Biden could – in theory – be denied the necessary 270.”

“If that were to happen, then the election would be thrown into the House of Representatives, as it was on several occasions in the 19th century,” Dershowitz said.”

“Under the Constitution, the House votes for president not by individual members, but by state delegations,” he noted. “Each state gets one vote, and so 26 states are required to elect a president. Although there are more Democrats than Republicans in the House of Representatives, there are more states with a majority of Republican representatives. Accordingly, if the election were to go to the House, the Republicans would determine the next president.”

My patriots that rightfully should be the plan because the fraud with different types of fraud is just much to much out of hand as it stands and more proof comes in. We already see what the Biden agenda is and that is to go back to the Obama era which will be all about the NWO, more regulations and higher taxes and they are already talking about getting rid of Trumps “America first” and as a matter of fact talking about it very openly. President Trump must stay in office!

My patriots I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving and we all must keep the faith and fight till the end!


The Election of 1876

Though it took some extra time to get a result in the presidential elections of 1800 and 1824, the final decision was not disputed by those involved. Such was not the case during the 1876 election, which pitted Democratic New York Governor Samuel Tilden against Republican Ohio Governor Rutherford B. Hayes.

America was at another formational moment, amid political tensions over the shape of the federal government in the aftermath of the Civil War. The election of 1876 put those questions front and center: Would control go to the Republicans&mdashwho had pushed for more federal power and for the rights of Black citizens via the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments&mdashor the Democrats, who favored less federal intervention in the South and limiting the rights of the formerly enslaved? (In the 20th century, the Democratic and Republican Parties realigned on issues of both civil rights and federal intervention.)

“There were two big issues: one was race,” says Eric Foner, the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and expert on the post-war period known as Reconstruction. “What is going to happen to the four million former slaves? There was great progress, but there was also a tremendous backlash against that progress. And second of all, the economy was in a depression [after the] Panic of 1873. There were sharp differences between the parties on both the issue on the rights of Blacks and what to do about the economic crisis.”

These crises drove high voter turnout: More than 80% of eligible voters cast a ballot, though there was also widespread suppression and intimidation of Republican voters, especially Black Republicans, and especially in states with contested governors’ races.

The Democratic party backed paramilitary groups, like the Red Shirts and the White League, who were an aggressive presence at polling places and party meetings. The written plan that the Red Shirts followed to make sure Black citizens in South Carolina could not get out to vote specifically urged each Democrat to “control the vote of at least one Negro, by intimidation, purchase, keeping him away or as each individual may determine.” In 1907, the state’s U.S. Senator Ben Tillman bragged about how effective that plan was: “We shot them…we killed them…we stuffed the ballot boxes,” Tillman reflected. In a perverted distortion of the significance of 1876 being the 100th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, he described the disenfranchisement of Black voters as “a second Declaration of Independence.”

So while Tilden, the Democrat, won the popular vote, and was believed to be so ahead on Election Night that newspapers declared “Tilden Elected” the day after, widespread voter intimidation and voter fraud allegations threw the legitimacy of 20 electoral votes into question. Tilden ended up being one Electoral College vote short of the 185 he needed to win.

“It wasn’t a free, fair election from the very beginning,” says Foner. “Tilden won the popular vote only because Klansman and other white supremacist organizations used violence to suppress the Black vote in many parts of the South. Tilden would never have carried the southern states that he did like Mississippi or Alabama without the widespread violence preventing Black people from voting.”

The Constitution didn’t have a roadmap for distributing disputed electoral votes, so Congress winged it and in January 1877 created a bipartisan commission of members of the U.S. House, Senate and the Supreme Court. After nearly four months, the leaders of the two parties ended up privately negotiating a deal through which Hayes was declared the winner on March 2, just three days before his public inauguration.

“Outside of the Constitution, outside of the law, they just made a deal, and that was the end of that,” as Foner puts it. “The Democrats would allow the House of Representatives to recognize Hayes as the President. In exchange for that, the Republicans agreed that Hayes, when he got in, would remove federal troops from the South.”

As former Secretary of State Jeremiah Black lamented back then, &ldquowe can never expect such a thing as an honest election again.&rdquo

The bargain was not only the end of the Election, but it was also the end of gains for freedom that had been made during Reconstruction. The deal made room for state Jim Crow segregation laws that wouldn’t be dismantled for nearly another century. Voter suppression continues to this day. After the Civil War, “The slave went free stood a brief moment in the sun then moved back again toward slavery,” scholar W.E.B. DuBois wrote in 1935.

“Basically, the Republicans got the White House and the Democrats got the whole South, and the losers were the African Americans,” says Foner.


The 1824 Presidential Election and the “Corrupt Bargain”

As we get ready to go to the polls on November 3, we’re looking back one of the more controversial elections—the 1824 Presidential election. Today’s post comes from Michael J. Hancock, an archives technician at the National Archives at College Park, MD.

John Quincy Adams was elected President on February 9, 1825, when the House of Representatives decided the Presidential election of 1824.

The Presidential election of 1824 is significant for being the only election since the passage of the 12th Amendment to have been decided by the House of Representatives. The 12th Amendment, passed in 1804, addressed concerns that had emerged in the election of 1796 and election of 1800. The election of 1824 is often claimed to be the first in which the successful Presidential candidate did not win the popular vote, even though the popular vote was not measured nationwide at the time, further clouding the issue.

The election featured five candidates, all of whom ran as Democratic-Republicans (the Federalists having ceased to have a national political presence). The crowded field included John Quincy Adams, the son of the second President, John Adams. Quincy Adams, representing New England, had separated with the Federalists in the early 1800s and served on various diplomatic missions, including the assignment to secure peace with Great Britain in 1814.

A second candidate, John C. Calhoun from South Carolina, had served as Secretary of War and represented the slave-holding South. Eventually, he dropped out of the Presidential race to run for Vice President.

A third candidate, Henry Clay of Kentucky, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, represented the western states. He favored an active federal government committed to internal improvements and infrastructure in order to strengthen national economic development and settlement of the West.

William H. Crawford, a slaveholder from Georgia, suffered a stroke in 1823 that left him more or less incapacitated, but he continued his campaign with the support of the New York machine led by Martin Van Buren.

Andrew Jackson, the celebrated “hero of New Orleans,” rounded out the field. Jackson was popular for his military victories in the War of 1812 and in wars against the Creek in 1814 and the campaigns against Choctaws, Cherokees, and Chickasaws and his conduct of the First Seminole war in Florida. He had been elected to the Senate in 1823, and his popularity soared as pro-Jackson newspapers promoted the narrative of his courageous exploits.

The election was as much a match of favorite sons as it was a struggle over policy. In general, the candidates were favored by different sections of the country, with Adams strong in the Northeast Jackson in the South, West, and mid-Atlantic Clay in parts of the West and Crawford in parts of the East.

With tens of thousands of new voters in the United States, the older system of having members of Congress assemble congressional caucuses to determine who would run was no longer tenable. It became clear that voters had regional interests and for the first time, the popular vote had significant implications in a Presidential election. Electors were chosen by popular vote in 18 states, while the 6 remaining states employed the older system in which state legislatures selected electors.

Results from the 18 states where the popular vote determined the electoral vote gave Jackson the election, with 152,901 votes to Adams’s 114,023, Clay’s 47,217, and Crawford’s 46,979.

The Electoral College, however, was another matter. Of the 261 electoral votes, Jackson needed 131 or more to win but secured only 99. Adams won 84, Crawford 41, and Clay 37. Meanwhile, John C. Calhoun secured a total of 182 electoral votes and won the Vice Presidency in what was generally an uncompetitive race.

Because Jackson did not receive a majority vote from the Electoral College, the election was decided following the terms of the 12th Amendment, which stipulated that when a candidate did not receive a majority of electoral votes, the election went to the House of Representatives, where each state would provide one vote. Following the provisions of the 12th Amendment, only the top three candidates in the electoral vote were admitted as candidates in the House: John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, and William Harris Crawford.

House Speaker Clay did not want to see his rival, Jackson, become President and set about his efforts within the House to secure the Presidency for Adams, lobbying members to cast their vote for the candidate from New England. Ultimately, Clay’s efforts paid off and despite failing to win the popular vote, John Quincy Adams was certified by the House as the next President on February 9, 1825, on the first ballot with 13 states. Jackson followed with 7 and Crawford with 4. Once in office, Adams installed Henry Clay to the post of Secretary of State.

Adams’s victory was a gut punch for Jackson, who expected to be elected President having more popular and electoral votes. Following this logic, Jackson and his followers accused Clay and Adams of striking a corrupt bargain. The Jacksonians campaigned on this narrative over the next four years, ultimately propelling Jackson to victory in the Adams-Jackson election rematch of 1828.


Contents

157 136
Democratic Republican
State Type Total
seats
Democratic Republican
Seats Change Seats Change
Alabama District 8 8 2 0 2
Arkansas District 4 4 [g] 0
California District 4 2 1 2 1
Colorado At-large 1 1 1 0 1
Connecticut District 4 3 1
Delaware At-large 1 1 0
Florida District 2 2 1 0 1
Georgia District 9 9 [g] 0
Illinois District 19 8 2 11 4
Indiana District 13 4 4 9 4
Iowa District 9 0 1 9 1
Kansas District 3 0 1 3 1
Kentucky District 10 10 1 0 1
Louisiana District 6 5 1 1 1
Maine District 5 0 5
Maryland District 6 6 0
Massachusetts District 11 2 1 9 4
Michigan District 9 1 2 8 2
Minnesota District 3 0 3
Mississippi District 6 6 2 0 2
Missouri District 13 9 4 4 4
Nebraska At-large 1 0 1
Nevada At-large 1 0 1
New Hampshire [h] District 3 1 1 2 1
New Jersey District 7 4 1 3 1
New York District 33 16 1 17 1
North Carolina District 8 7 1
Ohio District 20 8 5 12 5
Oregon At-large 1 0 1 1 1
Pennsylvania District 27 10 7 17 7
Rhode Island District 2 0 2
South Carolina District 5 2 2 3 2
Tennessee District 10 8 1 2 1
Texas District 6 6 0
Vermont District 3 0 3
Virginia District 9 8 1
West Virginia District 3 3 0
Wisconsin District 8 3 5
Total 293 157 [1] [f]
53.6%
27 136 [1]
46.4%
31

The previous election included 4 Independents, in Illinois and Massachusetts.

In 1845, Congress passed a law providing for a uniform nationwide date for choosing Presidential electors. [2] This law did not affect election dates for Congress, which remained within the jurisdiction of State governments, but over time, the states moved their congressional elections to this date as well. In 1876–77, there were still 8 states with earlier election dates, and 1 state with a later election date.

  • June 5: Oregon
  • September 5: Vermont
  • September 11: Maine
  • October 4:Georgia
  • October 10: Indiana, Iowa, Ohio, West Virginia

Election after Election Day:

Alabama redistricted and eliminated its at-large seats, going from 6 districts and 2 at-large seats to 8 districts. The state also elected a full delegation of Democrats, voting out the two Republicans.

There were two elections to the new state of Colorado.

44th Congress Edit

45th Congress Edit

Connecticut had been electing is members late in the cycle, even after the terms had begun. But starting in 1876, the state joined the others in electing its members on the November 7, 1876 Election Day. The delegation remained 3 Democrats and 1 Republican.

  • Y Washington C. Whitthorne (Democratic) 68.57%
  • D. B. Cliff (Republican) 21.11%
  • G. W. Blackburn (Independent Republican) 10.32% [25]

Wisconsin elected eight members of congress on Election Day, November 7, 1876. [31] [32]


How the House of Representatives Can Steal the Election for the GOP

Political apocalypse defined: The House hands the White House to someone who finished third in a three-way race. Yep, it could happen.

Roy Neel

Saul Loeb/Getty

While Republicans are busy trying to deny Donald Trump their party’s nomination, another group of conservative strategists is surely developing a more draconian backup plan: call it the Steal It In the House Option.

What might have once seemed inconceivable is now entirely possible this fall: a presidential election decided not by the voters, not even by the Electoral College, but by as few as 26 state delegations in the House of Representatives. If no general election candidate receives a majority of the electoral votes—270—the Constitution requires that the House of Representatives will elect the president.

And if that anti-democratic process isn’t bad enough, consider this perverse clause in the Constitution: Each state would receive one vote regardless of population. California, with nearly 40 million citizens, gets one vote. Wyoming, with fewer than 600,000, gets one vote. Go figure.

Each House delegation would caucus and cast that state’s vote. How would that work out this fall? Thirty-two state delegations are controlled by Republicans, 15 by Democrats, three evenly split. The District of Columbia and the territories cannot vote.

Not since the tumultuous election of 1824 has this outcome occurred. Andrew Jackson won both the popular vote and a plurality of electoral votes over John Quincy Adams, but two other candidates won enough electors to deny Jackson a majority. Subsequently, the House of Representatives threw the election to Adams. Jackson’s supporters nearly rioted, and the Tennessean swept Adams out of office four years later.

That’s ancient history, but two scenarios could create a similar electoral mess this year. While an independent presidential candidate is highly unlikely to win the election, there is a growing likelihood that such a campaign could prevent either party nominee from winning outright.

1. Hillary Clinton wins a plurality of electoral votes over Republican nominee Donald Trump, but falls short of the necessary 270. An independent candidate (Rick Perry?) wins a large state such as Texas. House Republicans, repelled by both Trump and Clinton, throw the election to Perry or whoever the independent candidate is—and who finished a very distant third in the voting. (The House can choose from any of the top three vote-getters.)

2. The Stop Trump movement succeeds in denying him the nomination, instead choosing Ted Cruz or John Kasich in a brokered convention in Cleveland. Trump launches an independent campaign and wins one or more states, a distinct possibility. Clinton wins a large plurality but fails to reach 270 electoral votes. The House elects Cruz or Kasich.

In either case, the Republican-controlled House, utilizing an arcane provision in the Constitution, subverts the will of American voters and prevents Hillary Clinton from winning the presidency. Farfetched? It’s not hard to imagine a deeply partisan House doing whatever it takes to deny Mrs. Clinton the presidency.

In 1968 George Wallace won five states and 46 electoral votes. It’s not a reach to envision Trump racking up a similar total in 2016, including typically tossup states such as Michigan or Florida.

Texas A&M scholar George Edwards, in Why the Electoral College Is Bad for America, writes, “…it is virtually impossible to find anyone who will defend the selection of the president by the House of Representatives, with each state having one vote. Even the most ardent supporters of the electoral college ignore this most blatant violation of democratic principles.”

There are other, even more bizarre possibilities lurking in November. In more than 20 states electors are not bound to vote for the candidate who wins their state. Could pressure be exerted to convince a few “faithless” electors to switch to another candidate? While unlikely, in this election cycle anything seems possible.

Should such a political apocalypse occur this year, there is a silver lining. Perhaps Congress would then move to abolish an anachronistic system of filling the most powerful office in the world. That would certainly please the ghost of Thomas Jefferson, who wrote after surviving the first contingency presidential election:

“I have ever considered the constitutional mode of election…as the most dangerous blot on our Constitution, and one which some unlucky chance will some day hit.”


Key Facts

A 269-269 Electoral College tie or other dispute that prevents the determination of a clear winner of the presidential election would result in a contingent election, in which it would be decided by the House of Representatives, while the vice presidential race is decided by the Senate, the 12th Amendment stipulates.

While each senator gets a vote for the vice president, the House vote is determined by state delegation rather than individual lawmaker—so each state, from Alaska’s one delegate to Texas’ 36 delegates, all only get one vote each.

Democrats have a majority in the House with individual lawmakers, but Republicans hold the majority of state delegations: 26 states have a GOP majority, 22 states have a Democratic majority, while there’s a tie in Pennsylvania and the Michigan delegation has seven Democrats, six Republicans and Independent Rep. Justin Amash.

The House vote would not be decided by the House as it currently exists, but by the lawmakers elected in November, as lawmakers will be sworn in on January 3 and Congress will convene to count electoral votes January 6.

Congress has only ever decided the presidential election in 1801, 1825 and 1877, and if the House cannot reach an agreement, the 12th Amendment says the vice president would serve as president until the issue is resolved.

There are a number of scenarios that could result in an Electoral College tie in November, and the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics noted September 16 that if Trump won all the states currently rated as a toss-up, it would result in a tie.


The Election of 1876

Though it took some extra time to get a result in the presidential elections of 1800 and 1824, the final decision was not disputed by those involved. Such was not the case during the 1876 election, which pitted Democratic New York Governor Samuel Tilden against Republican Ohio Governor Rutherford B. Hayes.

America was at another formational moment, amid political tensions over the shape of the federal government in the aftermath of the Civil War. The election of 1876 put those questions front and center: Would control go to the Republicans&mdashwho had pushed for more federal power and for the rights of Black citizens via the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments&mdashor the Democrats, who favored less federal intervention in the South and limiting the rights of the formerly enslaved? (In the 20th century, the Democratic and Republican Parties realigned on issues of both civil rights and federal intervention.)

“There were two big issues: one was race,” says Eric Foner, the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and expert on the post-war period known as Reconstruction. “What is going to happen to the four million former slaves? There was great progress, but there was also a tremendous backlash against that progress. And second of all, the economy was in a depression [after the] Panic of 1873. There were sharp differences between the parties on both the issue on the rights of Blacks and what to do about the economic crisis.”

These crises drove high voter turnout: More than 80% of eligible voters cast a ballot, though there was also widespread suppression and intimidation of Republican voters, especially Black Republicans, and especially in states with contested governors’ races.

The Democratic party backed paramilitary groups, like the Red Shirts and the White League, who were an aggressive presence at polling places and party meetings. The written plan that the Red Shirts followed to make sure Black citizens in South Carolina could not get out to vote specifically urged each Democrat to “control the vote of at least one Negro, by intimidation, purchase, keeping him away or as each individual may determine.” In 1907, the state’s U.S. Senator Ben Tillman bragged about how effective that plan was: “We shot them…we killed them…we stuffed the ballot boxes,” Tillman reflected. In a perverted distortion of the significance of 1876 being the 100th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, he described the disenfranchisement of Black voters as “a second Declaration of Independence.”

So while Tilden, the Democrat, won the popular vote, and was believed to be so ahead on Election Night that newspapers declared “Tilden Elected” the day after, widespread voter intimidation and voter fraud allegations threw the legitimacy of 20 electoral votes into question. Tilden ended up being one Electoral College vote short of the 185 he needed to win.

“It wasn’t a free, fair election from the very beginning,” says Foner. “Tilden won the popular vote only because Klansman and other white supremacist organizations used violence to suppress the Black vote in many parts of the South. Tilden would never have carried the southern states that he did like Mississippi or Alabama without the widespread violence preventing Black people from voting.”

The Constitution didn’t have a roadmap for distributing disputed electoral votes, so Congress winged it and in January 1877 created a bipartisan commission of members of the U.S. House, Senate and the Supreme Court. After nearly four months, the leaders of the two parties ended up privately negotiating a deal through which Hayes was declared the winner on March 2, just three days before his public inauguration.

“Outside of the Constitution, outside of the law, they just made a deal, and that was the end of that,” as Foner puts it. “The Democrats would allow the House of Representatives to recognize Hayes as the President. In exchange for that, the Republicans agreed that Hayes, when he got in, would remove federal troops from the South.”

As former Secretary of State Jeremiah Black lamented back then, &ldquowe can never expect such a thing as an honest election again.&rdquo

The bargain was not only the end of the Election, but it was also the end of gains for freedom that had been made during Reconstruction. The deal made room for state Jim Crow segregation laws that wouldn’t be dismantled for nearly another century. Voter suppression continues to this day. After the Civil War, “The slave went free stood a brief moment in the sun then moved back again toward slavery,” scholar W.E.B. DuBois wrote in 1935.

“Basically, the Republicans got the White House and the Democrats got the whole South, and the losers were the African Americans,” says Foner.


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