1876: Most Controversial Election In U.S. History
If you think the presidential election of 2020 is a mess, you should go back and see what happened in 1876.
The Civil War had ended just 11 years earlier. Reconstruction was still underway. The nation was in the middle of not just a recession, but a depression. The presidency of General Grant was filled with scandal.
In the South, the Democrats were engaging in horrid acts of racism against former slaves. The North was filled with corruption and they were blaming reconstruction and economic problems on the South.
The nation was a mess. President Grant had considered a 3rd term but then decided against it.
1876 - Colorado had just become a state. The nation went to the polls to vote.
In the South, Black men had only just won the right to vote. They joined the Republican party, the party of abolition and Lincoln, in droves. Southern Democrats were attaching Black voters, trying to force them to not vote at all or vote Democrat.
Democratic candidate Samuel Tilden, governor of New York, was ahead with 260,000 popular votes. But that was not enough electoral votes. He only had 184.
Governor Rutherford B. Hayes, governor of Ohio, saw that Louisiana, Florida, and South Carolina were in dispute. Those states represented 19 electoral votes. There was also one disputed elector from Oregon who alone could swing the vote.
Just like today, both sides were claiming victory. Together, the states represented a total of 19 electoral votes.
Just like today, massive voter fraud and irregularities at the polling and counting stations was discovered.
Just like today, there was unrest in the cities and even some rioting.
Democrat newspapers were calling for a march on DC to install the new president. Republican newspapers spoke of a second civil war.
While our founding fathers thought of many things, they had not designed a way in the U.S. Constitution to resolve this problem. Congress would have to decide.
Back then, much like today, Democrats controlled the House of Representatives, and Republicans dominated in the Senate. Now what?
The disputing sides compromised by creating a bipartisan electoral commission. There would be five Representatives, five Senators, and five Supreme Court justices. Even that compromise did not come easy but it was eventually settled on.
Finally, Hayes was awarded all three of the contested states. But it took a long time to decide it.
March 1877, Hayes was declared the winner by ONE electoral vote.
Even after the issue was settled, each side continued to claim that the other had tried to steal the election.
Learn more about this dispute in the video above.