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Closest Presidential Races

An article comparing close presidential races in U.S. history.
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Although the 2000 presidential race was extremely close, there have been others that were also too close to call immediately after the election. Indeed, the results of the Nov. 7 election in 1876 were not known until March 2, 1877, just three days before the inauguration. More recently, John F. Kennedy's defeat of Richard M. Nixon in 1960 wasn't official until noon the following day.

Election of 1876

Samuel J. Tilden, the Democratic candidate, received a popular majority but lacked one undisputed electoral vote to carry a clear majority of the electoral college.

The crux of the problem was in the 22 electoral votes which were in dispute because Florida, Louisiana, South Carolina, and Oregon each sent in two sets of election returns.

In the three southern states, Republican election boards had thrown out enough Democratic votes to certify the Republican candidate, Rutherford B. Hayes. In Oregon, the Democratic governor disqualified a Republican elector, replacing him with a Democrat. Since the Senate was Republican and the House of Representatives Democratic, it seemed useless to refer the disputed returns to the two houses for solution.

Instead Congress appointed an Electoral Commission with five representatives each from the Senate, the House, and the Supreme Court. All but one justice was named, giving the Commission seven Republican and seven Democratic members. The naming of the fifth justice was left to the other four. The fifth justice was a Republican who first favored Tilden but, under pressure from his party, switched to Hayes, ensuring his election by the Commission voting 8 to 7 on party lines.

The Democrats in Congress were outraged and threatened to block the decision until Republicans privately agreed to a number of concessions, including the removal of federal troops from the South, which effectively ended Reconstruction. As a result, Hayes was elected president, in what became known as the Compromise of 1877.

President Electoral
votes
Popular
votes
18001    
Thomas Jefferson (Dem.-Rep.) 73
Aaron Burr (Dem.-Rep.) 73
John Adams (Federalist) 65
Charles C. Pinckney (Federalist) 64
John Jay (Federalist) 1
18242    
John Quincy Adams (no party) 84
Andrew Jackson (no party) 99
William H. Crawford (no party) 41
Henry Clay (no party) 37
1876    
Rutherford B. Hayes (R) 185 4,033,768
Samuel J. Tilden (D) 184 4,285,992
1880    
James A. Garfield (R) 214 4,449,053
Winfield S. Hancock (D) 155 4,442,035
1916    
Woodrow Wilson (D) 277 9,129,606
Charles E. Hughes (R) 254 8,538,221
1960    
John F. Kennedy (D) 303 34,226,731
Richard M. Nixon (R) 219 34,108,157
1968    
Richard M. Nixon (R) 301 31,785,480
Hubert H. Humphrey (D) 191 31,275,166
George C. Wallace  (American Independent) 46 9,906,473
1976    
Jimmy Carter (D) 297 40,830,763
Gerald R. Ford (R) 240 39,147,973
2000    
George W. Bush (R) 271 50,455,156
Albert A. Gore (D) 2663 50,992,335
1. As Jefferson and Burr were tied, the House of Representatives chose the president. In a vote by states, 10 votes were cast for Jefferson, 4 for Burr; 2 votes were not cast. For the original method of electing the president and vice president (elections of 1789, 1792, 1796, and 1800), see Article II, Section 1, of the Constitution.
2. As no candidate had an electoral vote majority, the House of Representatives chose the president from the first three. In a vote by states, 13 votes were cast for Adams, 7 for Jackson, and 4 for Crawford.
3. One elector from the District of Columbia left her ballot blank to protest the city's lack of representation in Congress, leaving Gore with 266 electoral votes instead of 267.
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