The presidential election of 1876 still has people upset today - 137 years after the election, or to be more precise, 50,216 days later. In 1876, Governor Samuel Tilden (Democrat) of New York faced Governor Rutherford B. Hayes (Republican) of Ohio in the presidential election.
To this date, the presidential election with the highest percentage of voter participation was in 1876. Tilden won the popular vote, but lost the Electoral College to Hayes and therefore Hayes became the 19th President of the United States of America.
Four times in 57 presidential elections, the candidate who won the popular vote did not win the election, because they did not win the majority of votes of the Electoral College – 1824, 1876, 1888, and 2000. Some would cite these four elections as reasons why the system of electing the president should change. I won't.
It may be a surprise to most voters, but we do not directly elect the President and Vice-President of the United States of America. Electors selected by each state meet on the Monday after the second Wednesday in December after a presidential election to cast their votes for President and Vice-President.
To remedy the "problem" with the outcome of the presidential elections of 1824, 1876, 1888 and 2000, we have a solution in 2014 being pushed in Minnesota and in other states – National Popular Vote (NPV).
Currently, Minnesota’s ten electoral votes are awarded on a winner-take-all basis to the presidential candidate that receives the most votes in Minnesota. Under NPV, Minnesota would enter into an interstate compact with other states and would award Minnesota’s ten electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
If you’re unfamiliar with the issue, please read this editorial from the Star Tribune in support of NPV and here for commentary opposing NPV.
Before I write anymore about NPV, I will disclose the following:
By disclosing these three points, I hope to prevent a flood of phone calls and e-mails, questioning why I’m writing this post. For some reason, NPV can turn a Republican family dinner into a food fight in a matter of seconds. I spoke with a few Minnesota Democrats today and they were aware of NPV, but it did not seem as big of an internal party issue to Democrats, as it is with Republicans.
The idea for this post did not come from the issues involving NPV. It came from observing five Republican candidates for higher office in Minnesota, who reaffirmed or declared their positions on NPV, with clear, unambiguous language.
Some of the candidates who boldly announced their position on NPV have no "issues" section on their campaign websites. If you want to know where the candidates stand on a variety of issues, many of which the polls show people actual care about, you’re out of luck. But if you’re a one-issue voter and your one-issue is NPV, then you hit the jackpot last week.
The reason NPV became such a hot-issue for Republicans last week is because rumors spread like wildfire that a vote could be happening any moment on NPV in the Minnesota House of Representatives. A vote on NPV did not happen, but it may this week. But even the rumors of an impending vote, triggered five Republican candidates for higher office to speak up on NPV.
Jeff Kolb, a Republican activist from Crystal, does not support NPV and would prefer Republicans would stop talking about it. “I would rather be talking about anything other than [NPV] right now”, said Kolb. "But the reality is that NPV is an idea that is so bad, that I would find it difficult to back a candidate who would support NPV," added Kolb.
I want the voters of Minnesota to know where the candidates of all political parties stand on as many issues as possible before the election this November. But, I do not think NPV is on the mind of many Minnesota voters as they decide which candidate they will be supporting for public office this year. I hope all the candidates over the last week that made their position clear on NPV, will be just as open about their positions on other issues – ones that actually matter to Minnesotans.
To the candidates that made their positions clear about NPV, I say congratulations. Now that your position on NPV is clear, let’s start talking about real issues facing Minnesota, because finding a remedy for the election of 1876, is not one of them.