Election antics are old hat


With the presidential election drawing ever closer, antics and investigations — targeting both nominees — have many Americans shaking their heads and thinking that surely this is the most bizarre election in U.S. history.

They’re wrong.

Throughout history, in the course of bidding for the highest office in the land, plenty of U.S. elections have run amok — starting with the very first one …

For all intents and purposes, the election of George Washington as the nation’s first president wasn’t really an election at all — more of an appointment. Washington ran unopposed.

To this day, the election of 1788-1789 is the only presidential election in US history where a candidate has secured 100 percent of the electoral vote. In fact, the real question throughout the election wasn’t who would be president, but who would be vice president.

The 12th amendment to the constitution was written a little differently back then: Essentially the states each selected a number of electors that was equal to their representation in Congress. Those electors would then have two votes a piece: one for the president, one for the vice.

As stated, Washington won. His vice ended up being (future president) John Adams, who narrowly came out on top out of a field of 11 candidates.

The 12th Amendment would come into play for another U.S. election, one that made such a mess of things that Americans felt they had no choice but to change the constitution itself. That election was the 1800 disaster between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams.

Problems with the two-vote system were already known by 1796, but making changes to constitutional amendments is not exactly easily achieved. As a result, no changes had been made in time for the 1800 election — and Jefferson “tied” with his “running mate” for the top billing.

Both Jefferson and Aaron Burr garnered had 73 votes to beat out John Adams creating a mess so spectacular in fashion that Congress had to be called upon to straighten it all out.

Enter (the face on a $10 bill himself) Alexander Hamilton.

Hamilton was the first secretary of the treasury, he was the founder of the Federalist Party and — just to make things even more awkward — he was also a man who had publicly expressed disdain for all three candidates, Adams, Jefferson and (in particular) Burr.

Why he involved himself in the 1800 election is a question for history but Hamilton convinced the Federalists to vote for Jefferson, a man he referred to as “the lesser of three evils.”

After weeks of debate, The House of Representatives finally named Jefferson the victor and Burr as vice on Feb. 7, 1801.

Three years later, Burr, still holding a grudge, killed Hamilton in a duel — while he was still a sitting vice president.

More recently, the 1920 election saw a major candidate mount his campaign from prison. Warren G. Harding and James Cox weren’t the only names on the ticket: Eugene V. Debs was the nominee for the Socialist Party and had been jailed for opposing World War I.

He still managed to snag a respectable 3 percent of the popular vote.

Last but not least, remember 2000? Oh how quickly we forget …

The presidential election between Al Gore and George W. Bush was so close that it took five weeks to determine the winner — and it all came down to Florida.

Despite the fact Gore had more (popular) votes than Bush, he lost the Electoral College when he lost Florida due to a highly disputed U.S. Supreme Court decision.

The official margin of victory in the Sunshine State? 537 votes.

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