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Even for those who followed the events most closely, the legal twists and turns of the post-election struggles seemed at times bewildering. We witnessed manual recounts of election ballots, GOP federal court lawsuits challenging those recounts, two Florida Supreme Court opinions, lawsuits over butterfly and absentee ballots, questions about the role of the Florida legislature and the United States Congress in resolving presidential election disputes, and two United States Supreme Court decisions, the second of which finally handed the election to Bush.

Although the Presidency was decided through much legal wrangling, one should not have to be a lawyer to understand how we came to have Bush rather than Gore as our President in that hotly contested election. Understanding the Election offers an accessible, comprehensive guide to the legal battles that finally gave George W.

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Bush the Presidency five weeks after election night. Meant to stand next to and clarify the numerous journalistic and personal accounts of the election drama, Understanding the Election offers a offers a step-by-step, non-partisan explanation and analysis of the major legal issues involved in resolving the presidential contest. The volume also offers a clear overview of the Electoral College, its history, what would be involved in switching over to a direct election, and the likely future of the Presidential electoral process.

While some still decry the election outcome as the result of political manipulation rather than the rule of law, Greene shows that almost every legal conclusion of the post-election struggle can be understood through the application of legal principle, rather than politics. Last year, American voters were busy deciding which presidential candidate would win the election based on the issues, but the reality of the election became a legally complicated decision. Updated and with a New ForewordThe nation will not soon forget the drama of the presidential election.

It was instant history, and will be studied by historians, Understanding the Election: Nevertheless, African-Americans remained surprisingly adamant in expressing their right to vote, despite the threat of death. There was a large company of [white men]. They went up to the church. I saw the colored men running…. I dodged round and went and voted while these armed men were going up to the church.

This Compromise of came as a response to the contested election of As mentioned earlier, Hayes did not expect to win the election. A combined nineteen disputed electoral votes in Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina remained in question. What is more, if Hayes took the three disputed states, he would win the presidency despite having lost the popular vote by over , votes. Deciding the states, however, proved to be difficult.

South Carolina showed a greater number of votes tallied than eligible voters; Florida found stuffed ballot boxes, repeat voters, and Republican symbols printed on Democratic ballots in an effort to dupe illiterate voters to vote for Tilden; rampant African-American intimidation characterized Louisiana. With that, separate slates of electors formed in Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina.

Thus each of the three states had a pro-Hayes slate and a pro-Tilden slate. Confused, Congress could not decide which slates held legitimacy. According to the U. So, to decide the winner of the election, Congress created a special electoral commission outside of the legislative to determine the next U.

The Electoral Commission of was to be a bipartisan group of five Senators, five Representatives, and five members of the Supreme Court that could collectively determine the true winner to the election. The original group consisted of seven Democrats and seven Republicans, with Chief Justice David Davis acting as the independent chair.

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But, on January 25, , the day before Congress officially passed the measure to create the Electoral Commission, Davis became the Greenback senator of Illinois, resigning his chairmanship. Republican Justice Joseph P. Bradley of New Jersey replaced Davis. Thus, the ideological scale of the commission tipped towards the Republican end, with an majority.

On February 1, , Congress met in a joint session to officially begin the count. Congress passed on the disputed Florida returns to the Electoral Commission, who determined by the expected partisan vote that Florida belonged to Hayes.

Tilden, disillusioned by the partisan results, which he predicted to be the pattern in deciding South Carolina and Louisiana, planned a vacation to Europe. As suspected, Louisiana and South Carolina both went to Hayes. The final state to be counted was Wisconsin, which on March 2, , went to Hayes.

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Democrat Samuel Tilden won 4,, million popular votes to 4,, cast for Hayes. Thus the runner-up in the popular vote became the president with , fewer votes than his opponent. Both states established rival Democratic governments that threatened the legitimate Republican state governments and refused to recognize the validity of the Hayes presidency. Hayes noted his concern at his March 5, Inaugural Address: Detachments of federal troops guarded the legitimate Republican governments in those states as the de facto rival Democratic governments increasingly threatened local government.

To do this, Hayes ultimately made a compromise with the South that effectively ended Reconstruction efforts, leaving African-Americans exposed to rampant racism and violent discrimination. How to do it is the question.


  1. A Guide to the Legal Battles that Decided the Presidency;
  2. From Stuffed Ballot Boxes in .
  3. Women in Antiquity: New Assessments.

In can be concluded, then, that for Hayes, the approval of South Carolina and Louisiana carried more weight than his concern for the human rights of African-Americans. In effect, the Southerners were abandoning the cause of Tilden in exchange for control over two states, and the Republicans were abandoning the cause of [African-Americans] in exchange for the…possession of the Presidency. Because of the contested election of , the subsequent Compromise of stained the Hayes administration, pointing historians to critique the presidency that caused the end of Reconstruction.

While the election of , which ultimately saw the victory of George W. Bush over incumbent Vice President Al Gore, did not produce a notorious compromise as seen in , similarities exist. Moreover, the reality of contested elections continuing into the twenty-first century moves to explain the current conversations on Electoral College reform, essentially bringing the election into the present. If Gore won Florida, he would have a solid electoral victory; if Bush took Florida, he would win by a narrow margin, with two electoral votes deciding the outcome.

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United States presidential election of 1968

Put it in an album. Hang it on a wall…. Nevertheless, pregnant chads, butterfly ballots, and chad-clogged Votomatic Systems all became issues unique to the twenty-first century election in Florida, which suddenly became important to a close race. Furthermore, in such a close race, Florida law required that an automatic recount be taken.

Understanding the 2000 Election

The design evidently confused a number of voters who intended to vote for Gore but punched the hole for Buchanan. Even more confusing, using the Votomatic system Palm Beach County residents who left hanging chads the little piece of the ballot supposed to be punched clearly off with the stylus or pregnant chads, clogged the Votomatic counting machines. Those in charge of the recount literally had to stop the machines to clean out the chads creating the clogs.

The American Presidential Election of 2000

Supreme Court stopped the recounts and determined the winner of the election. Before reaching the U. Supreme Court, however, several partisan bickers ensued. To begin, Gore wished for hand recounts in four Florida counties known to be pro-Gore, hence hopefully earning enough votes to take the presidency. After all, of the five justices ruling in favor of Bush in Bush v. Gore received electoral votes, after an elector from Washington, D. Whether studying the election of or the more recent election of , a similar argument can be made: This must be clearly defined, as it is not now, and it was because of the obscurity that the danger last year was so imminent.

Consequently, one may pick up the continuity between and Obvious to both elections was the discontent justifiably felt after the popular election results were essentially pushed aside. Bush or Al Gore, many Americans think that the victor will come to office because of the way the voting was conducted or counted rather than because he legitimately won the election in Florida. It may seem to be common sense to many that the future president should be the winner of the popular election, but as the case studies of Hayes and Bush revealed, the president is not always the candidate that the general U.

Because of those historical cases, scholars of government have argued that the Electoral College should be done away with and replaced with direct popular elections. But calls for a constitutional amendment to boot the Electoral College in favor of direct popular election, while to many seeming a common sense proposal, has been a somewhat radical pitch that has met considerable resistance over time.

In a proposed amendment actually passed the House of Representatives, to It seemed as if the idea was popular. However, the proposed measure of moved into the Senate, where it was considered and stalled for ten years. By , the members of the Senate picked up the proposal once more and passed the measure, 51 to With that, a two-thirds majority was clearly denied and the legislation never reached the states for consideration.

Thus, opponents of direct popular election were set at ease in , but continued to convey their arguments in support for the continuation of the Electoral College system. Arguments against direct popular elections include the warning that the dismantling of the College could lead to the end of the traditional two-party political system that has long characterized American political history.