Historical precedent
Dec 07, 2016 | 18095 views | 0 0 comments | 1149 1149 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Dear Editor,

By mid-December, when the Electoral College officially casts its ballots, it is very likely Hillary Clinton will be up about two percentage points in the popular vote.

That is a huge margin, but it will do nothing to change the winner of the presidential election.

The Democrats once even won the popular vote and the electoral vote and lost the presidency. In 1876, New York State Governor Samuel J. Tilden finished the presidential race with a 3 percent lead in the popular vote over his Republican rival, Rutherford B. Hayes.

Tilden also held a lead in the Electoral College 203 to 166, an outcome that did not sit well with Republican Party leaders, who controlled the people who supervised the elections.

So the leaders devised a way to invalidate thousands of Democratic votes in Florida, South Carolina, and Louisiana. This changed the electoral vote count to 185-184 for Hayes.

Northern Democrats were incensed, but Southern Democrats saw an opportunity and offered a deal. They said they would not challenge the commission’s results if Hayes would remove the last vestige of federal troops from the South and let the Southern states manage their own affairs.

The Republicans agreed and Reconstruction came to an ignominious end, with African Americans largely abandoned by the federal government and the imposition of poll taxes, literacy tests, and the intimidation of black voters by white paramilitaries.

The federal government has continued its policy of abandoning blacks with the gutting of the Voting Rights Act by the Supreme Court in 2013.

As a result, in 2016 there were nearly 900 fewer polling places in states previously covered by the Voting Rights Act than there were for the 2012 election, and in July a federal appeals court ruled that a North Carolina voter identification law had discriminated against African American voters “with almost surgical precision.”

And so it goes.


Martin H. Levinson

Forest Hills
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