Today is Election Day in the United States. Although Election Day doesn’t always fall on November 5th, it is always the first Tuesday in November. 2013 of course is not a Presidential election year but I thought I’d post some Presidential election history facts and oddities.
- Our first President, George Washington ran unopposed and he is the only President in our history to get 100% of the Electorial College. Back then, the Vice Presidency was awarded to the runner up. There were 11 candidates vying for the post and it was John Adams who rose to the top.
- In 1800s, there were two parties: Thomas Jefferson ran as the Democratic-Republican candidate and John Adams as the Federalist. At the time, states got to pick their own election days, so voting ran from April to October (luckily they didn’t have to listen to talking heads on network television for all that time). Because of the complicated “pick two” voting structure in the Electoral College, the election ended up a tie between Jefferson and his vice-presidential pick, Aaron Burr. One South Carolina delegate was supposed to give one of his votes on another candidate, so as to arrange for Jefferson to win and Burr to come in second. The plan somehow went wrong, and both men ended up with 73 electoral votes. That sent the tie-breaking vote to the House of Representatives, not all of whom were on board with a Jefferson presidency and Burr vice-presidency. Seven tense days of voting followed, but Jefferson finally pulled ahead of Burr. The drama triggered the passage of the 12th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which stipulates that the Electoral College pick the president and vice-president separately, doing away with the runner-up complications.
- Let the mud slinging begin. In 1828 electoral battle between Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams was very nasty. Jackson had lost out to Adams in 1824 after Speaker of the House Henry Clay cast a tie-breaking vote. When Adams chose Clay as his Secretary of State, Jackson was furious and accused the two of a “corrupt bargain.” When the 1828 election even got started, Adams was accused of pimping out an American girl to a Russian Czar. Jackson’s wife, Rachel, was called a “convicted adulteress,” because she had, years earlier, married Jackson before finalizing her divorce to her previous husband. Rachel died after Jackson won the election, but before his inauguration; at her funeral, Jackson blamed his opponents’ bigamy accusations. “May God Almighty forgiver her murderers, as I know she forgave them,” Jackson said. “I never can.” To round out a rough election, Jackson’s inauguration party (open to the public) turned into a mob scene, with thousands of well-wishers crowding into the White House. “Ladies fainted, men were seen with bloody noses, and such a scene of confusion took place as is impossible to describe,” wrote Margaret Smith, a Washington socialite who attended the party.
- In 1872, incumbent Ulysses S. Grant had an easy run for a second term — because his opponent died before the final votes were cast. Horace Greeley remains the only presidential candidate to die before the election was finalized.
- Here is one from modern times. Democrat Al Gore beat Republican George W. Bush in the popular vote in the 2000 election, but the electoral vote was a close, and controversial, call. As election night drew to a close, New Mexico, Oregon and Florida remained too close to call. It would be Florida that determined the winner, but not until the Supreme Court weighed in. For a month, the outcome of the election remained in recount limbo, as Gore’s campaign contested the vote count in several close counties and the Florida and U.S. Supreme Courts engaged in a tug-of-war over whether to halt the recounts or extend their deadlines. Among the challenges faced by the hand counts: determining whether semi-attached scraps of paper, or “hanging chads,” on punch-card ballots should count as votes. Ultimately, on Dec. 12, the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that a statewide recount was unconstitutional, alongside a further decision that the smaller recounts could not go forward. The decision meant the original vote counts stood, giving the election to Bush.
- Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected as President four times (1932, 1936, 1940 and 1944). He died during his 4th term in April 1945. Congress passed the 22nd amendment on March 21, 1947. It was ratified by the requisite number of states on February 27, 1951. This amendment read: No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of the President more than once. But this article shall not apply to any person holding the office of President when this article was proposed by the Congress, and shall not prevent any person who may be holding the office of President, or acting as President, during the term within which this article becomes operative from holding the office of President or acting as President during the remainder of such term.