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Rutherford B. Hayes and the Disputed Election of 1876

Overview

The US Constitution provides an orderly process for electing the President, as described in Article II and the Twelfth
Amendment. However, in the election of 1876, two conflicting sets of electoral votes were submitted by each of four states. The Constitution provided no process for determining the legitimate set of votes. Acting outside any constitutional mandate, Congress created a special commission to investigate the returns from Oregon, South Carolina, Louisiana, and Florida. Voting along party lines, the commission ruled that Rutherford B. Hayes had won the disputed election.

Objectives

Students will:

  • Trace the events that led to the election of Rutherford B. Hayes.
  • Analyze the provisions of the US Constitution that describe the presidential election process.
  • Evaluate Congress’ appointment of a special commission in absence of any constitutional provision for disputed electoral vote counts.
  • Predict solutions should a similar situation arise in the future.