NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Electoral College Anomalies

November 7, 2000

With polls showing the presidential election as tight as can be this year, attention has once again focused on the possible role of the Electoral College in deciding the outcome.

How often has the popular vote winner either lost the Electoral College vote or had a close call?

  • In 1876, Samuel Tilden, with 50.9 percent of the popular vote lost out to Rutherford B. Hayes -- who got one vote more than his opponent in the Electoral College.
  • In 1888, the popular-vote winner Grover Cleveland lost to Benjamin Harrison when the Electoral College voted 233 to 168 for Harrison.
  • Perhaps oddest of all was the victory of John Quincy Adams over Andrew Jackson in 1824 -- with Jackson receiving 42.2 percent of the popular vote and 99 Electoral College votes to Adams' 31.9 percent of the popular vote and only 84 electoral votes.
  • In that race, since neither candidate won an electoral majority, the election was thrown into the House of Representatives, where Adams prevailed.

Source: Phil Kuntz, "U.S. Again Faces the Electoral 'Loaded Pistol," Wall Street Journal, November 7, 2000.


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