When we hear about fixed or violent elections in other countries, we tend to shake our heads and think to ourselves, "Thank goodness that doesn't happen in the U.S.!" What we tend to forget, though, is that we've had plenty of controversial elections in our short history. From presidents to senators and probably hundreds of local officials that we aren't familiar with, many elected leaders end up with the office through suspicious means. These nine races certainly make us question whether it really is the people's choice or if there are other shadier factors at play.
When Samuel J. Tilden and Rutherford B. Hayes faced off in the 1876 run for the top office in the country, they probably didn't realize it was going to be one of the most controversial of its kind. Tilden, a Democrat, actually won the popular vote and only needed one of 20 disputed electoral votes to win the election. A special committee was formed to settle the matter of the remaining votes, and the victory was ultimately given to Hayes, though it was still one of the closest margins of victory in American history. Hayes was given the presidency in part because of an informal deal struck by the parties; Hayes gets to be president, but all the federal troops have to be withdrawn from the South, marking the end of Reconstruction.
In the so-called "Revolution of 1800," Democratic-Republican (yes, that was a thing back then) Vice President Thomas Jefferson beat out Federalist President John Adams. Besides there being dirty smear campaigns on both sides, an activity that wasn't common at the time, the old rules on how the Electoral College votes complicated matters. At the time, members of the Electoral College each got to vote for two candidates: whoever had the most would be president and the person with the second most would become vice president. Jefferson and Aaron Burr were both Republicans and the party had planned for one person to not vote for Burr so that he would become Jefferson's VP. Someone clearly didn't understand his assignment, because Jefferson and Burr received the same number of votes, causing the result to be decided by the House of Representatives. Alexander Hamilton's serious personal beef with Burr may have cost Burr the presidency as he championed for Jefferson. It seems as though Burr may have had the final feuding laugh, though.
You know it's going to be an interesting election when one of the candidates' names is Richard "Dick" Johnson. We don't know if he went by Dick, but we're fairly positive people called him that behind his back at least. While his presidential running mate, Martin Van Buren, won nearly 60% of the Electoral votes, giving him the presidency without controversy, Johnson's past kept him from getting important votes to give him the majority. Johnson had a common law wife with black heritage who used to be his father's slave; after she died, he had an affair with another family slave and then sold her for auction when she ran away with another man. Oh, and he then slept with her sister. Johnson's lack of a majority sent the VP election to the Senate for the only time in American history, making the Electoral College irrelevant to the vice presidential election.
After running in a special election to serve the remaining term of a resigning Iowa senator, Smith Wildman Brookhart (that appears to be his given middle name and not something he earned at some crazy college parties) ran for a full term in 1924 as a Republican. He won, but because he was considered too radical by most of the Republicans in the Senate, his opponent mounted a challenge with the elections committee. The opponent, Daniel Steck, won over the committee, including the Iowa Republican Party on the basis that Brookhart wasn't loyal to the party because he supported a Progressive Party candidate in the presidential elections. His seat was given to Steck, but Brookhart came back to win Iowa's other Senate seat easily, showing that the people wanted Brookhart and that the election challenge was shadier than they were trying to prove the election was.
We all remember the Florida ballot controversy of the 2000 election. George W. Bush and Al Gore, both looking so young and fresh-faced, were in the running to be president. It was basically down to the results in Florida to decide who would be president, and the margin was so slim, that state law required a machine-run recount. Bush ended up winning by only about 300 votes, and then 900 when some overseas absentee ballots came in, though some media questioned the legality of some of these ballots. Gore requested a recount by hand (due to problems with the butterfly ballot design) in four Florida counties, and this caused all kinds of problems with deadlines being missed and extended. The Supreme Court got involved and eventually declared that the original results stood. Democrats felt that Bush had won the election unfairly, and Republicans thought that Democrats were trying to steal the presidency by using hanging chads as an excuse.
Sometimes referred to as the "corrupt bargain," the 1824 election isn't exactly one Americans remember fondly (or probably at all for most of us). It is the only election since the Twelfth Amendment was passed that has had to be decided by the House of Representatives. The Amendment mandates that if no candidate gets a majority, or more than half, of the electoral votes, the House will choose. Andrew Jackson received the most votes, both popular and electoral, but the number wasn't good enough to win the election outright. When the House decided, they chose John Quincy Adams instead. Jackson and his supporters believed Henry Clay, another candidate, made a deal with Adams: Clay would throw his support behind Adams if Adams made him Secretary of State when he won. It's never been proven, but Adams did give the position to Clay. Very suspicious, indeed.
This race is actually the longest election contest in the country's history. New Hampshire Senator Norris Cotton was stepping down, and the emerging candidates were Democrat John Durkin and Republican Louis Wyman. On election day, Wyman beat out Durkin by 355 votes. Durkin demanded a recount, the result of which was Durkin winning by 10 votes. Wyman took his troubles to the state's ballot law commission with an appeal, and the commission eventually declared that Wyman had won by two votes. Wyman was seated for the remaining few days of Cotton's term, and then the quarreling had to start again. Durkin asked the full Senate to decide who to seat, as they have final say. But they couldn't make up their minds. Eventually, the two candidates decided it would just be easier to have a new election, which was held almost 10 months after the original. Durkin won by 27,000 votes. What was going on with the counts before?
Just like in 2000, the 2004 election ruffled some feathers. George W. Bush ended up winning over John Kerry, but the results in Ohio will always be a sore subject among Democrats. Kerry decided ultimately not to challenge the results. Many Americans suspect that there may have been some unethical maneuvers made by Republican elections officials in the state. For example, two of them were convicted of rigging the recount in a way that would keep them from having to recount all the votes in the state. There were also suspicions that the voting machines didn't work as they should, possibly taking votes away from Kerry.
This was one of just four instances in American history where the winner of the popular vote didn't win the presidency — a result that can make you question the merits of the Electoral College system. Incumbent Grover Cleveland, who had won the popular vote by 0.8% (still a win!), lost the election to Benjamin Harrison. The decisive state in this race was New York, Cleveland's home state no less. Harrison took it with a less-than-1 percent lead, giving him all the electoral votes, votes that would've given Cleveland the victory. Many of the states Harrison won were by a slim margin, while Cleveland won by a lot in other states, making the results seem all but fair.