The outcome of the U.S election 2020 has generated much debate on whether this could be a contested election. Donald Trump is yet to concede and Republicans are set to take allegations of electoral fraud into the supreme court. While many have voiced concerns that the scrutiny will undermine faith in the electoral process, it certainly won’t be the first time that a US election is settled in court.
Four US elections in 1876, 1888, 1960 and 2000 produced contentious results and brought about some tangible changes to the electoral process.
Tilden vs Hayes, 1876
The 1876 election proved to be a highly controversial one. Just 11 years after the Civil war, the election held on November 7 was dominated by accusations of intimidation against African American voters in the South.
Three of the Southern states; Florida, Louisiana and South Carolina seemed to have given the Democratic candidate Samuel Tilden a majority. However, the election boards in all three states found concrete evidence of intimidation and invalidated enough votes to declare Republican nominee Rutherford B. Hayes victorious.
Hayes went on to win a 185-184 electoral college majority and a compromise was reached in 1877 to ensure a peaceful transition of power.
Republicans agreed to end “Reconstruction” in return for a Hayes presidency.
Harrison vs Cleveland, 1888
Allegations of bribery were at the forefront of the 25th US election between Democratic President Grover Cleveland and Republican Senator Benjamin Harrison.
The cause of controversy was a leaked letter allegedly sent by William Dudley, treasurer of the Republican National Committee to local Republican leaders in Indiana. The letter included instructions to divide voters into “blocks of five” to receive bribes in exchange for voting Republican.
Harrison ended up winning the election even without the Indiana electoral college votes however, Cleveland won the popular vote by almost 100,000 votes. Cleveland did not actually contest the outcome but the blocks-of-five scandal led to adoption of secret ballots for future elections.
Nixon vs Kennedy, 1960
One of the closest elections in US history was decided by just 0.2 percent difference. Kennedy won five states, Missouri, Illinois, New Jersey, Hawaii and Texas, by less than 1 percent.
The incredibly close results led to accusations of foul play from the Republican party. At the heart of the allegations was the Chicago political machine led by Mayor Richard Daley. It was claimed that the autocratic power of The Political Machine was unethical and led to public corruption. Republicans tried and failed to overturn the results in both Illinois and Texas at the time, as well as in nine other states.
After three days of uncertainty, Nixon finally conceded despite being urged by the campaign staff to pursue recounts.
Bush vs Algore, 2000
George W. Bush won the disputed election by just five electoral votes. However, the result could have been easily overturned had the Supreme Court upheld a Florida Supreme Court decision to initiate recounts by hand.
The center of controversy was the Punch Card Ballot System. An allegedly 70,000 ballots in Florida had registered no vote for the President on the punch cards readers. Gore went to court to get those ballots recounted by hand but the Supreme Court dismissed his case citing that the deadline for states to choose electors was close and there was no time to initiate recounts.
Gore officially conceded the next day.
The outstanding circumstances in which the 2020 election played out gives a window to the Republican lawmakers to challenge the results. Changes to voting procedures, extended voting deadlines, higher ratio of early voting and mail-in ballots may provide enough reasons for this election to be settled in Court.