The US Presidential election of 1912 had four candidates representing four political parties. Prior-Republican President Theodore Roosevelt returned from a trip and found that William Taft had been nominated for President by the Republican Party. Roosevelt, against the increasing conservative politics of Taft, created his own political party, the Progressive Party. The other candidates were Woodrow Wilson for the Democrats and Eugene Debs for the Socialists. While campaigning, Roosevelt was shot in the chest. He managed to finish his speech before having the bullet removed. In the end, Democrat Wilson won the election with less than 50% support in several states. This was because the Republican vote was divided between Taft and Roosevelt. William Taft finished in fourth place.
The election of 1824 is considered controversial because in the first round of voting, not one candidate took a majority of electoral votes. The parties up for election were Andrew Jackson, John Quincy Adams, William Crawford, and Henry Clay. They all belonged to the Democratic-Republican Party. The election was decided by the House of Representatives, of which Henry Clay was the House Speaker. He was eliminated from the race and the House pushed for John Adams, swaying several key state representatives away from Andrew Jackson. John Adams won the election and nominated Henry Clay as his Secretary of State. Andrew Jackson believed it was political corruption.
The election of 2000 was marked by problems at the voting polls, recounts, and lawsuits. The two candidates were Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Al Gore and the election results of the state of Florida was one of the biggest points of contention. The votes were too close, first claiming Gore the winner and then Bush. The Florida Supreme Court ruled for a recount and 5 weeks later, the US Supreme Court overruled that decision. Bush won by only 5 electoral votes and was the first president in 112 years to serve without the majority popular vote.
In 1800, the election system was slightly different. Voters would choose 2 candidates out of many; the one with the majority vote became President and the one in second place became Vice President. This caused Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr to tie for first place, both gaining more votes than then-President John Adams. For the first time ever, the House of Representatives had to decide the winner. Alexander Hamilton, the Treasury Secretary, campaigned for Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson won and Burr became Vice President. The results of this election prompted Congress to pass the 12th amendment which made voting for the President and Vice President separate acts. Three years later, Aaron Burr killed Alexander Hamilton during a duel.
The election of 1876 was between Democrat Samuel Tilden (then-Governor of New York) and Republican Rutherford Hayes. Tilden won more popular and electoral votes than Hayes, however, he lacked 1 vote for the mandatory 185 electoral votes needed to win. Florida, Louisiana, and North Carolina were too close in results to award their combined 20 electoral votes and Oregon replaced an elector in the middle of the dispute. The country was torn apart and nearing war. Congress responded by establishing an emergency commission consisting of Representatives of Congress, Senators, and Supreme Court judges. In total, the group was made up of 7 Republicans, 7 Democrats, and 1 Independent. They decided in favor of Hayes, but the Democrats, disagreeing with the results, threatened to block the official vote count. The parties came together for negotiations and agreed that the Democrats would accept Hayes, if he would remove troops from the South of the country. Hayes took oath and ended the era of Reconstruction in the South.
Democratic President Harry Truman was opposed by Republican candidate Thomas Dewey and by people within his own political party. He lost support of conservative Democrats in the south who didn’t agree with his stance on equal civil rights for African Americans and formed a new political party, called the Dixiecrats. According to a mid-October Gallup’s poll, Dewey would beat Trump by 5%. The results were not made public until Election Day and Truman believed he had lost the election. The Chicago Tribune even published the next day’s paper with a headline that read, “Dewey Defeats Truman”. The morning it published, the actual results showed that Truman had, in fact, won the election.
In an already divided country, the 1860 Presidential election was the final blow to conflicting politics and triggered the outbreak of the Civil War. Abraham Lincoln was the Republican nominee and Steven Douglas was the Democratic nominee in the north. The South, wary of the North’s intent to end slavery, chose then-Vice President John Breckenridge as their Democratic candidate. Senator John Bell ran on the Constitutional Union Party ticket. Most of the states in the south did not include Lincoln on the ballots. Lincoln won the majority of electoral votes in the North (although only 40% of the popular vote) and Breckenridge won most of the electoral votes in the South. Shortly after Lincoln was claimed the next President, South Carolina voted to secede. This act was followed by 6 other states. These 7 states went on to form the Confederate States of America by 1861 with Jefferson Davis as their President.
The 2008 election was between Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama. The citizenship of both candidates was questioned with critics claiming that Obama was born in Kenya and that McCain’s birth in the Panama Canal Zone (a US Naval Air Station) should disqualify him for the presidency. Neither Vice Presidential candidate escaped criticism. Democrat Joe Biden was criticized for some prior remarks and Republican Sarah Palin was criticized for her strong conservative beliefs. When the financial crisis became a reality, McCain paused his campaign. The New Black Panther Party, an African American political organization, were accused of voter intimidation for their behavior outside of voting polls in the city of Philadelphia. The charges were later dropped.
In 2004, then-President George W. Bush (who was involved in the 2000 controversial election) and Democratic Senator John Kerry competed for office. After the September 11th attacks in 2001, President Bush had strong public support. However, that support began to diminish as the public began questioning the reasons behind the two ongoing wars. The Democrats used these doubts to garner support for Kerry and the Republicans questioned Kerry’s Vietnam War record. After the votes were counted, George W. Bush served his second term as President.
The 2016 election took place in November, 2016. Republican Donald Trump ran against Democratic Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The campaign was one of the most controversial in US history. Hillary Clinton was accused of sending confidential government e-mails over private servers and hiding this information from the American public. Donald Trump was criticized for his unprofessional behavior, comments, and approach to campaigning. Some Republicans refused to endorse Donald Trump including: former President George H.W. Bush (according to the Lieutenant Governor of Maryland), Congressman Richard Hanna, former Congresswoman Connie Morella, and Carlos Gutierrez (former Commerce Secretary under the George W. Bush administration). Trump won the electon with just over a 2% margin.
What Was the Most Controversial Presidential Election in History?
Some of the most controversial elections in US history include the 2016 Trump/Clinton election, the 2004 Bush/Kerry election, and the 2008 Obama/McCain election.
About the Author
Amber is a freelance writer, English as a foreign language teacher, and Spanish-English translator. She lives with her husband and 3 cats.
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