Do you think this election is contentious? Got a few minutes? Look up the election in 1800 between the Democrat-Republican Thomas Jefferson and Federalist John Adams. Being free ain’t easy. America was divided in the election of 1800 between those who wanted a strong central government that emphasized a healthy manufacturing sector, and those who wanted a republic that was agricultural and independent. (Most were farmers in 1800 while manufacturing was an up and coming sector). Americans had two excellent candidates who were Founders. Here was the choice: How should America be governed? As an agrarian or a manufacturing country? Who had the best vision for our new nation? It was a divisive campaign complete with slander and accusations. The House of Representatives decided the election. Remarkably, there was a peaceful transfer of power. Jefferson became our third president.
Enter the election of 1876…Democrat Samuel J. Tilton won the popular vote while the electoral college votes were in dispute for four months. Ultimately, the presidency was decided by a 15 member Electoral Commission, who developed the Compromise of 1877. Rutherford B. Hayes became our 19th president. This election left a lot of questions in my mind. Some say it was THE most hotly contested election in history due to the division left after the Civil War. Yet, there was a peaceful transfer of power.
In case you are wondering, Ulysses S. Grant was president during this dispute. His term ended on March 4, 1877. At that time, inaugurations were held in the spring, when most could arrive on horseback.
Who can forget the 2000 election between Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Albert Gore, Jr.? As you recall, the popular vote appeared to go to Gore, with Florida’s ballots being hotly contested. Neither Bush nor Gore had enough electoral college votes to win the presidency. (Civics review: How many electoral votes are needed to win the presidency?) The election ended up in the Supreme Court in the case of Bush v. Gore and divided the nation. Florida conducted a machine and a manual recount. (Remember “hanging chads” and “butterfly ballots?”) The Bush campaign appealed. The Supreme Court decided the election in a 5-4 vote in favor of George W. Bush. This was the closest election in our history. It was also the first-ever to be decided in the Supreme Court. There still was a peaceful transfer of power.
Today, many are asking what will happen if there is no clear winner? The truthful answer is that no one knows. It is We the People that ultimately are responsible for the vote and demanding an accurate account. I requested an absentee ballot on my congressman’s advice, only to discover today that there will be no absentee ballots in my state. My state will treat all early voting by mail as mail-in ballots. Therefore, I will vote in person. I’ll wear good shoes and bring water and a snack, preparing for a long line. As an American, I will expect a peaceful transfer of power, knowing that this is our American heritage.
How does learning that there have been other contested elections followed by a peaceful transfer of power affect your voting viewpoint?
This is Common Sense Civics and Citizenship. ??