“It don’t make sense.” Curry shook his head and folded the newspaper he had been studying. “Here,” he offered. “See if you can figure it out.”
“What’s to figure, Kid? Citizens go to the polls and vote. Ballot counters count up all the votes and the candidate who gets the most votes is the winner.”
“Uh huh. That’s what I thought too. Only that’s not what’s printed right…” he edged closer to his partner and pointed to a paragraph halfway down the page, “there. It says that Rutherford B. Hayes… Can you believe they spelled his name wrong? Rutherford B. HEYES,” Curry corrected, “was voted President of the United States, even though most folks voted for the other fella. Don’t seem fair to me.”
“Let me see that.” Heyes held the paper closer to a lamp and silence ruled as he devoured the article. “Got it,” he finally beamed, proudly. “President Hayes won the election, despite the fact that Samuel Tilden got more actual votes, because Hayes got more votes in the electoral college.”
Curry shook his head. “You don’t have to go to college to vote. Anybody can vote. The fifteenth amendment says you can’t deny a man his right to vote, based on his color, or…” Failing to remember the exact wording of the constitutional amendment, the Kid continued anyway. “Or if he went to college.”
“That’s not what I mean,” Heyes explained, patiently. “The electoral college isn’t a university, it’s a process. See, votes are divvied up amongst the states, all thirty-eight of them, depending on how many folks live there. Demographics. Understand?”
The Kid nodded, pouring a cup of coffee for himself and Heyes. Then he sat, sipped, and shook his head. “No.”
“Voters in each state and the District of Columbia cast ballots selecting electors pledged to presidential and vice presidential candidates. In nearly all states, electors are awarded on a winner-take-all basis to the candidate who wins the most votes in that state.”**
“Just like I thought.” The Kid tipped his chair back on two legs and placed one boot on another chair. “You don’t get it either.”
“It’s really pretty simple. It’s got to do with states choosing the candidate who can give them what they want. It’s all part of the Democratic Process.”
“Sounds kinda un-democratic, if you ask me,” the Kid sulked.
Heyes set the newspaper to the side and leaned forward, resting his elbows on the table. “You want to tell me what’s really bothering you?”
“Come on, Kid. You know you can tell me anything.” He reached into his vest pocket, removed a flask, and added a splash to Curry’s coffee, then his own. “Wishing you could have cast your vote, eh?”
The Kid shrugged.
“Who would you have voted for?”
“It don’t matter, Heyes. And it’s not that I wanted to vote for either one of ’em, specifically, it’s just that you and me, doin’ what we do, bein’ wanted… We used up a bunch of choices I sure wish we hadn’t.”
“I know, Kid.” Quietly, Heyes added a second splash to his own cup. “So? Who would you have voted for?”
Curry laughed. “I don’t know. Who would you have voted for?”
“Ha! Neither one of them! Most politicians are crooks anyway.”
“In that case, maybe I ought to run for President. Then I could give us both Presidential pardons!”
“You? Why not me?”
“You could run against me if you want, but I’d win, hands down,” Curry stated, emptying his cup and placing it back on the table.
“What makes you so sure?” Heyes wondered.
Heyes bit his lip, then shrugged. “But women can’t vote.”
“If I was President they could. I’d pass another one of them amendments, givin’ them all the right to vote. Women got a right to choose, Heyes.”
“And what makes you think they’d choose you over me?”
“It’s really pretty simple,” Curry smiled. “It’s got to do with that Democratic Process you were talkin’ about, and me, givin’ women what they want.”
** Quote from Wikipedia
Although the passage of the fifteenth amendment in 1870 guaranteed men the right to vote, regardless of their race, women did not win this right until the passage of the nineteenth amendment in 1920.
The Presidential Election of 1876 was really rather interesting. For a brief summary, check the following link:
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