Electoral Counting Act of 1887

The election of 1876 was close, with no clear winner and the country was a mess. Since either the House or the Senate objecting to a State’s slate of electors was enough to not count the electoral votes from a State, there was no clear way to resolve the election and an informal deal was cut between the Democratically controlled House of Representatives and the Republican controlled Senate. There was no “Commission” created, not to look into voter fraud as some Republican Senators said yesterday, but there was an unwritten deal cut to decide the outcome of the election.

The deal was that Republican Rutherford B. Hayes would be President, if he would agree to remove Federal troops from the South who were overseeing Reconstruction. The Southern States “promised” to protect the Civil and voting rights of freed Slaves. This lead to the widespread disenfranchisement of generations of Black people and made the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution largely meaningless words on a piece of paper for nearly a Century, so far as Blacks were concerned.

To prevent such a mess again (basically one House of Congress being able to derail an election whose outcome they did not like), the Electoral Counting Act of 1887 was passed and is here. There were a variety of changes, but now it requires both the House AND the Senate to decide to overturn an election whose outcome they do not like. If you are speaking the language of “bothsides“, you are wrong factually and historically, and you are helping this country move toward not having a functioning democracy. And if you think “they are only doing this because they know it will not work”…..well, I hope you are correct but I don’t think so and we may find out in four years. Since 1887, we have not had:

  1. A President say for months that the only way he could lose was if his opponents cheated
  2. Republican controlled states delay the counting of mail in ballots allowing the President to be ahead on “election night” but likely to lose (he did)
  3. A President then say “stop counting, I am ahead!”
  4. Then once it was clear that he lost, file numerous lawsuits, that have all, save one, been rejected. Numerous ones dismissed on the merits.
  5. Continue to scream fraud, I lost, and have one party turn into what is now essentially a cult
  6. And in this context, have more than half of the Republicans in the House and one-fifth of those in the Senate say, “our elections were fine, but the President, elected on the same ballot, got cheated.”

And Republican Senators invoke the “commission” that was actually an unwritten “deal” in 1877 to end Reconstruction and abandon to the project of seeing to freed Slaves becoming full citizens for nearly a Century. When people tell you who they are, listen.

About Don Taylor
Professor of Public Policy (with appointments in Business, Nursing, Community and Family Medicine, and the Duke Clinical Research Institute), and Chair of the Academic Council at Duke University https://academiccouncil.duke.edu/ . I am one of the founding faculty of the Margolis Center for Health Policy. My research focuses on improving care for persons who are dying, and I am co-PI of a CMMI award in Community Based Palliative Care. I teach both undergrads and grad students at Duke. On twitter @donaldhtaylorjr

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