Election: How Trump vs. Clinton is like Hayes vs. Tilden

Hillary Clinton is expected to win the popular vote but lose the electoral vote to President-elect Donald Trump.

This also happened during the election of 1876, when Rutherford B. Hayes, of Fremont, Ohio, lost the popular vote to Samuel Tilden but won the electoral vote and was named the winner, becoming the 19th U.S. president.

Background on the contested election of 1876:

            Rutherford B. Hayes was the Republican candidate, a former Civil War Union general and governor of Ohio. Samuel Tilden was the Democratic candidate and governor of New York.

            The Civil War had ended just 11 years earlier, and the country was deeply divided. The Republican Party was considered the party of the North, while the Democratic Party was considered the party of the South and the former Confederacy.

            Tilden won the popular vote. However, the electoral votes of Florida, South Carolina and Louisiana were in dispute because all three states sent election returns certifying that both Tilden and Hayes had won their state.

            Congress appointed a special commission to review election returns from the disputed states and declare which were valid. During that review, the commission determined Hayes had won the electoral votes in the three states in question.

Congress voted to uphold the commission’s findings, and Hayes had won the presidency by one electoral vote.

The alleged Compromise of 1877:

            Democrats were filibustering Congressional proceedings in order to keep Hayes from being determined the winner. During the dispute, there was a series of meetings between the Republicans and Democrats at the Wormley Hotel in Washington, D.C., to try to work out a peaceful resolution to the crisis.

            What was discussed was not documented, and rumors at the time and since then have indicated that concessions were made to the South in order to end the filibuster. That has become known as the Compromise of 1877, but whether that deal actually was made is still debated by historians today.

How does the Electoral College work?

When voters cast ballots in a presidential election, they are actually casting votes for the electors, who cast their votes for president. The candidate who wins each state’s popular vote gets those electors. Each state’s number of electors is the same as its number of members in Congress. To learn more about the Electoral College, visit the Hayes Presidential Library & Museums to see a display on how the Electoral College was created, its function and how it has affected elections in the past.