Lessons from the 1916 Presidential Election

In the 1916 election, the incumbent, Woodrow Wilson, was challenged by the Republican Charles Evan Hughes, a Supreme Court justice.

At 9:00 pm on election day, Hughes had won the four swing states of New York, Indiana, Connecticut and New Jersey. The early editions of the New York papers called it: President-elect Hughes.

Later the next day, counts from Ohio and Kansas arrived in Wilson’s favor. Then Wilson won Minnesota by less than a thousand votes. Suddenly Wilson was leading 264 to Hughes’ 254 electoral votes. But one lingering state, California, with 13 electoral votes, had not submitted its results. The California election would decide who would be president.

Counting votes in L.A. was very slow and boxes of ballots were guarded by armed Democrats. They believed that vote tampering had given the Republicans the presidential victory in 1876, and forty years later they were not going to let it happen again.  Eventually, out of the more than a million votes in California, Wilson had 3,777 more than Hughes, and history took its course.

Leave a Reply