U.S. presidential election, 1876

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Presidential electoral votes by state.

The U.S. presidential election of 1876 was perhaps the most disputed presidential election in American history. Samuel Tilden handily defeated Ohio's Rutherford Hayes in the popular vote, and had 184 electoral votes to Hayes' 165. However, 20 electoral votes were in dispute due to three states (Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina) each reporting and certifying two different sets of election returns. This was compounded when one of Oregon's votes was declared illegal on account of "holding a federal office".



Republican Party nomination

Governor Hayes was nominated in a close vote, receiving 384 delegate votes to chief rival James Blaine's 351. William Wheeler was nominated for Vice President by a much larger margin (366-89) over his chief rival, who would later serve as a member of the electoral commission: Frederick T. Frelinghuysen.

Democratic Party nomination

Governor Tilden was the overwhelming favorite for the Democratic nomination, receiving 535 delegate votes and besting his nearest rival (Indiana Governor Thomas A. Hendricks) by a nearly 4-to-1 margin. Hendricks would be nominated for Vice President of the United States by acclamation following Tilden's nomination.

Greenback Labor Party nomination

Dissatisfied with the nation's fiscal policies, the Greenback Labor Party was organized for the 1880 election, with Peter Fennimore Cooper chosen as its Presidential nominee and Samuel F. Cary chosen as his running mate.

General election

Electoral disputes

See also: Electoral Commission (US)

In Florida, Louisiana and South Carolina, official returns favored Tilden, but election results in each state were marked by fraud and threats of violence against Republican voters. The Republican-dominated state electoral commissions subsequently were able to disallow a sufficient number of votes to award their electoral votes to Hayes. This led to each state submitting two sets of returns, one certified by the state's Governor (favoring Hayes), and the other certified by the state's legislature (favoring Tilden).

In Oregon meanwhile just a single elector was disputed. The statewide result clearly had favored Hayes, but the state's Democratic Governor (LaFayette Grover) claimed that the elector, a postmaster, was constitutionally ineligible to vote on the grounds of "holding a federal office." Grover then substituted a Democratic elector in his place.

Facing a constitutional crisis the likes of which the nation had never seen, on January 29, 1877 the U.S. Congress passed a law forming a 15-member Electoral Commission to settle the result. Five members came from each house of the U.S. Congress, and they were joined by five members of the United States Supreme Court. William M. Evarts served as counsel for the Republican Party.

The majority party in each house received three of the five members, and the five Supreme Court justices were chosen as follows: two from each of the major parties and another judge selected by these four to cast the swing vote.

The justices first selected Justice David Davis, but he was elected to the Senate by Illinois' state legislature, forcing them to choose an alternate, Justice Joseph P. Bradley, who, although a Republican, was considered the most impartial remaining member of the court. This selection proved decisive however, as Bradley joined the other seven Republican committee members in deciding the 20 disputed electoral votes, giving Hayes a 185-184 electoral vote victory.

This election was one of the most contentious presidential elections in United States history, and historically more significant than even the U.S. presidential election of 2000. The returns accepted by the Commission placed Hayes' victory margin in South Carolina at 889 votes, making this the second-closest election in U.S. history, after the 2000 debacle, decided by 537 votes after the Supreme Court's ruling in Bush v. Gore. Interestingly enough, these two elections share many characteristics.

Members of the Electoral Commission

Commission MemberAppointed byParty Affiliation
George Franklin Edmunds (Vermont)SenateRepublican
Frederick Theodore Frelinghuysen (New Jersey)SenateRepublican
Oliver Hazard Perry Thock Morton (Indiana)SenateRepublican
Thomas Francis Bayard (Delaware)SenateDemocratic
Allen Granberry Thurman (Ohio)SenateDemocratic
James Abram Garfield (Ohio)HouseRepublican
George Frisbie Hoar (Massachusetts)HouseRepublican
Josiah Gardner Abbott (Massachusetts)HouseDemocratic
Eppa Hunton (Virginia)HouseDemocratic
Henry B. Payne (Ohio)HouseDemocratic
Nathan Clifford (Maine)Supreme CourtDemocratic
Stephen Johnson Field (California)Supreme CourtDemocratic
Joseph Philo Bradley (New Jersey)Supreme CourtRepublican
Samuel Freeman Miller (Iowa)Supreme CourtRepublican
William Strong (Pennsylvania)Supreme CourtRepublican


(reflecting the Commission's rulings)

Template:Start U.S. presidential ticket box Template:U.S. presidential ticket box row Template:U.S. presidential ticket box row Template:U.S. presidential ticket box row Template:U.S. presidential ticket box row Template:U.S. presidential ticket box row Template:End U.S. presidential ticket box (a) Template:U.S. popular vote total disclaimer

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