Electoral College Controversy: Looking for Votes


 "Cronin 'Organized Himself'"
  Cartoonist:  Thomas Nast
  Source:  Harper's Weekly
  Date:   January 13, 1877, p. 36

Click to see a large version of this cartoon...

Click to see a large version of this cartoon

Complete HarpWeek Explanation:
In Oregon, the Democrats admitted that Rutherford Hayes, the Republican presidential nominee, had won the popular vote, but they decided to dispute one of the three Republican electors, John Watts, on a technicality. The U.S. Constitution stipulates that no elected or appointed official may serve as a presidential elector. Watts was a local postmaster, an appointive government position. He had, however, resigned his job a week after winning a slot as one of Oregonís electors and before the scheduled meeting of the Electoral College on December 6.

Dissatisfied with such a maneuver, the Democratic governor of Oregon removed Watts as an elector and replaced him with C. A. Cronin, the Democrat who received the most votes of any Democrat in the race for presidential elector. At the December 6 meeting of the Electoral College in Oregon, the two Republican electors refused to recognize Cronin and recertified Watts. The three Republicans then cast their ballots for the Hayes/Wheeler ticket. On his own accord, Cronin reported his vote for Tilden and two votes for Hayes. The Oregon situation was important to the Democrats because they hoped it would force an investigation of the electoral returns, rather than just deciding which certification to accept.

On February 23, the Electoral Commission considered the two conflicting election returns from Oregon, then voted eight to seven to award the stateís three electoral votes to Hayes. The Republican-controlled Senate affirmed the commissionís ruling on Oregon, while the Democratic-controlled House rejected it. Under the terms of the Electoral Commission Act, which specified that both houses must reject the commissionís decisions to overrule them, Oregonís electoral votes were officially placed in the Republican column. Finally, on March 2, Hayes would win an Electoral College majority, and thus the presidency, by one electoral vote.

In this Thomas Nast cartoon, the Democratic elector, C. A. Cronin, is seen trudging in the snow toward the U.S. Capitol. His image, taken from partisan newspaper reports, is that of an alcoholic tramp, with bulbous nose and a whiskey ďReformĒ bottle on his cane; what later generations might identify as a W.C. Fields character. He dutifully carries his ballot for Tilden, but his journey, in Nastís view, is burdened by the weight of the Oregon and U.S. Constitutions on his back.













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