A REASONABLE DOUBT THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS OF 1960 AND 1976

Ronald Gordon Ziegler

There seems to have been a renewed interest in electoral corruption over the recent period, with probably the most notable effort at its documentation being the current effort of Larry Sabato and Glenn Simpson. These authors not only portray a vivid accounting of the problem, they also pose some worthwhile perspectives in the attempt to deal with the dilemna. But especially with such new law as the Motor Voter act and mail order voting, which offer tremendous potential for abuse, the problem of vote fraud appears to have once again reared its ugly head in American politics. One problem with such a viewpoint, however, is the possibility that examples of such abuse are commonplace; that voting irregularities have been recurrent in our political history. One of the difficulties with voting analysis is that it tends to be a rather static treatment of an essentially dynamic phenomenon. While it may seem little more than academic exercise, there are aspects of the Presidential elections of 1960 and 1976 which should be remembered, for example, but which are largely lost in treatment. Even at the time, they were popularly perceived as having resulted in the elections of Kennedy and Carter. But, in reality, those outcomes are very much in doubt. 1960 Efforts are made in analysis to take the dynamic into account, of course, but it would be difficult to find any record of tabulated vote for 1960 which would be at variance with any of the others. One of the closest elections in our history, at least for the Presidency, Kennedy is recorded as having won the popular vote with a plurality of 114,673 and as having collected 303 electoral votes to Nixon's 219. If there are questions about the popular vote, they might be considered to be of little consequence since JFK carried the Electoral College, the 'real' election. It thus only serves the interest of the nation to accept the figures as given and to move on. To Richard Nixon's credit, perhaps, he did do that. And yet, there is little question that Kennedy did not in fact win a plurality of the popular vote. There is further evidence that casts shadows of doubt on the electoral vote, as well. It is with regard to the vote in Alabama that the most flagrant misrepresentation has occurred. It is critical because the ruse wipes out the pretense that Kennedy won the popular vote. Rather than a plurality of 81,193 for Kennedy there, the national Democratic ticket actually received only a relative handful of votes in the state. The 318,303 votes that are counted for Kennedy are also counted for an unpledged slate. Manipulations by the state party sent the electors to vote for Kennedy, but few of the votes cast in Alabama for that slate had that in mind. Mississippi, for example, cast its electoral votes (by an 'unpledged' slate) for Harry Byrd of Virginia. Five of Alabama's electors voted for Byrd. Even if we accept the highly questionable six electoral votes he got as Kennedy's, it is difficult to do so for the popular vote, and that alters the popular tally nationwide to a 203,630 margin for Nixon. Congressional Quarterly explains in its Guide to U.S. Elections that the determination was made to count the popular vote which was not cast for Kennedy for JFK because the six electors chosen by the voters did cast their ballots for him.* And, it seems, in the thirty-five years since then, everyone else has followed suit. The only 'losers' in the charade would have to be the voters of Alabama who voted for the unpledged slate with Byrd in mind, only to have them go to Kennedy who they could have voted for, but did not. This is not to attempt to justify their rationale. Whatever one may think of their motivations, it is difficult to abide deception. As for the politicos who made the determination to support Kennedy, it might be suggested that they got their just desserts in short order with the confrontations with federal authority which ensued. Even had the vote for Kennedy been successfully challenged, it would still have left the Massachusetts Senator with a 28 electoral vote margin. Even thusly changing the electoral vote so that Alabama went to 'other' or Byrd, while it reduces Kennedy's total to 297, does not help Nixon. Kennedy, however, carried Hawaii, Illinois, Missouri, Nevada, and New Mexico, along with their 50 electors, by a total of only 21,743 votes. And he 'won' Minnesota and New Jersey by a mere 22000 votes in each, South Carolina by just under 10000, and Michigan and Texas by a little over 46000 in each. Had Illinois along with Alabama and either Hawaii, South Carolina, or New Mexico not gone to Kennedy, the election would have been thrown into the House of Representatives by reducing Kennedy's electoral count to at most 267 (The Nixon total would then have been something like 249 or 253). The Cook County election machine of Mayor Daley thus gave Kennedy the White House in 1960, and the suspicious regimen of that organization needs no retelling here. TABLE I -- Select State Popular Voting in 1960 Electors State JFK Nixon Plurality Plurality as % of Total Vote 11 Alabama 318303 236110 81193 12% 3 Hawaii 92410 92295 115 .07% 27 Illinois 2377846 2368988 8858 .2% 21 Michigan 1687269 1620428 46841 2 % 11 Minnesota 779933 757915 22018 1 % 13 Missouri 972201 962218 9983 .5% 3 Nevada 54880 52387 1493 1 % 16 New Jersey 1385415 1363324 22091 .7% 4 New Mexico 156027 153733 2294 .7% 8 South Carolina 198121 188558 9563 3 % 24 Texas 1167935 1121693 46242 2 % Although Nixon enjoyed almost equally thin margins in Alaska, California, Montana, and Washington, the irregularities in Chicago offset all the others. It is plausible that Nixon actually 'carried' Illinois' 27 electoral votes, New Jersey's 16, Minnesota's 11, South Carolina's 8, New Mexico's 4, and the 3 each in Hawaii and Nevada. That leaves aside the Michigan and Texas vote, the later of which carries the same stigma as does that of Illinois. But with 'Landslide Lyndon' on the ticket, there is little wonder. The margin of difference in these bigger states, while seemingly larger in raw numbers, is just as thin in proportion of the total vote to the margins in the smaller states. With only slight shifts in some of the states of Illinois, Hawaii, Nevada, Missouri, or New Mexico, (in addition to Alabama), Kennedy would have been deprived of the electoral vote majority. It would have required merely 9000 votes switching from Kennedy to Nixon in Missouri and Hawaii to have given Nixon an electoral vote majority with a slight popular vote margin for Kennedy (unless Alabama's vote is considered). Leaving aside all of the rest and accepting the contention that these alone (Alabama and Illinois) constituted extreme enough irregularities to be altered, the consideration of how the House might have divided had they along with any one of the other three (South Carolina, Hawaii, or New Mexico), had it been forced to elect a President, is interesting to ponder.** With 50 states, a candidate would have had to win the polling of 26 state delegations to be elected. *Pierce makes much the same assessment in his book about the electoral college, The Peoples' President. ** Of course, it is debatable that any court would have taken upon itself lightly such a decision; nor would such a move have engendered favorable response, it being close to judicial tampering with the election outcome in many minds. Courts, however, have been known to undertake dramatic moves. In the House, delegations in 28 states were in Democratic hands after the 1960 elections. However, since Harry Byrd got the electoral votes of Mississippi, and considerable sympathy across the South, it would be conceivable that, at least initially if only as a bargaining ploy, Kennedy would not have garnered the majority of states requisite to win, perhaps as many as 14 southern states dividing for Byrd rather than Kennedy. Since Republicans had little prospect in these states, a three way prospective vote in each probably would not have given Nixon any of these by plurality (the vote of each delegation would go to whomever of the top three got the most votes, no majority being required -- the choice in these states would at least initially have been between Kennedy and Byrd). TABLE II -- Partisan Division of the 1961 House D Alabama 9D 0R = Montana 1D 1R D Alaska 1D 0R R Nebraska 0D 4R = Arizona 1D 1R R Nevada 0D 1R D Arkansas 6D 0R R New Hamp. 0D 2R D California 17D 13R R New Jersey 6D 8R = Colorado 2D 2R D New Mexico 2D 0R D Connecticut 4D 1R D New York 22D 21R D Delaware 1D 0R D North Carolina 11D 1R D Florida 7D 1R R North Dakota 0D 2R D Georgia 10D 0R R Ohio 7D 16R D Hawaii 2D 0R D Oklahoma 5D 1R D Idaho 2D 0R = Oregon 2D 2R D Illinois 14D 11R R Pennsylvania 14D 16R R Indiana 4D 7R D Rhode Island 2D 0R R Iowa 2D 6R D South Carolina 6D 0R R Kansas 1D 5R R South Dakota 0D 2R D Kentucky 7D 1R D Tennessee 7D 2R D Louisiana 8D 0R D Texas 21D 0R R Maine 0D 3R D Utah 2D 0R D Maryland 6D 1R R Vermont 0D 1R D Massachusetts 8D 6R D Virginia 8D 2R R Michigan 7D 11R R Washington 2D 5R R Minnesota 3D 6R D West Virginia 5D 1R D Mississippi 6D 0R R Wisconsin 4D 6R D Missouri 9D 2R R Wyoming 0D 1R TABLE III -- Partisan Division of House Delegations Democrat 28 Republican 18 Tied 4 TABLE IV -- Possible First Ballot Vote Kennedy 14 Nixon 18 Byrd 14 Tied 4 It would have been necessary for only three southern delegations to have voted for Byrd to have effected such a result. What price would Kennedy have had to pay to pick up the states he would need to win? Nixon would have needed only 8, but to get them, he would have had to pay dearly, too. Perhaps the price would have been the appointment of segregationist judges, nonenforcement of judicial orders for desegregation, non-issuance of promised executive orders, a choice of potential Supreme Court nominees, cabinet positions, et al. It might have meant pledges which would have precluded many of the civil rights initiatives undertaken by the Justice Department under Robert Kennedy, if he, in fact, would have been acceptable in that position. At the very least, the Presidency of Kennedy would have been potentially substantially altered or weakened in the pursuit of such initiatives, and civil rights activists might have been met with quite different responses, had their actions been possible at all, in Birmingham, in sit-ins, in freedom rides, at the University of Alabama, at Ole Miss, and more. Although far less likely, it is even plausible that an agreement between southern Democrats and Republicans could have resulted in a general realignment of the political system, although with Nixon at the head of the ticket, that is not very plausible at all. Of a certainty, the Senate would have elected its Majority Leader, a Southerner, Lyndon B. Johnson, as Vice President. And if no one prevailed in House voting, Johnson could then have become President in 1961 -- sometime. Although, in retrospect, such a move might have turned out to be by design of Southern representatives, they probably could not have been fully aware of the civil rights character of the man, at least based on events which marked his eventual Presidency. In a close contest in the House, New York might have become a battleground. The wheeling and dealing which might have gone on can only be imagined. In New York's 1st District, the Democrat had won by only 700 votes, while in the 15th, the Republican was 'swept' in by just 2300 votes. That by itself would not be a predictor of a basis for slippage. More likely to have played a role in the bargaining might have been the 17th District's very liberal Republican Representative John Lindsay. Nor should the powerful influence of the 'moderate' Nelson Rockefeller be neglected in a state where Democrats held a tenuous one vote delegation margin. If Rockefeller and Nixon were not exactly 'close,' there does not appear to have been much love loss between Rockefeller and Kennedy, either. And if the potential for machinations by House Democrats is doubtful, one need only look to the seating by the Democratic House of Indiana Democratic Representative McCloskey in 1984, even though he apparently lost the election. The question is not the merits or lack of them in the Kennedy Administration. Rather, the issue is the convergence on what could have been a deep constitutional crisis which would have confronted the nation, or might very well have played out after the election of 1960. It is no wonder that Nixon and the Republicans took the course they did and walked away in acceptance of a very tenuous Kennedy triumph. 1964 The genuine landslide triumph of Lyndon Johnson over Barry Goldwater was also a genuine anomaly in American electoral politics. It has also had immense ramifications on the nation since then. Although many of the Congressional gains won that year by Democrats were reversed in the next election in 1966, 1964 helped produce a 'permanent' Congress and an 'imperial' one. It also ushered in the era of burgeoning public sector complex, dependency, and structural debt. While all of the achievements out of that were not so negative, these three are directly attributable to it. It was also responsible for the Kennedy tax cut being enacted, and both the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (which won the votes of a greater percentage of Republicans than of Democrats) and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. But the election of 1964 was not as lop-sided as it has often been portrayed. In fact, had Kennedy lived, the prospective race which loomed for 1964 between Goldwater and JFK would assuredly have been quite a different event. The two had been close friends in the Senate and indeed had talked about scheduling a tour together around the country, doing appearances in which they would effectively debate the issues and their differences. But the assassination left the country in a shock which found it as grieved a year later as it had been in November 1963, and probably is the key factor in the altered election results. With apologies to Harry Truman, it also launched the recent trend toward negative attack ads as Democrats ran one showing a young girl in a field pick a flower. As she began pulling off the petals of the daisy, a count-down was heard. At the last moment a hand was shown pulling the Goldwater lever in a voting booth, followed by a mushroom cloud consuming the screen. Regardless of that, it is most unlikely that Democrats would have carried many of the states they did had it not been for the assassination. There had been prominent discussion in 1962 of Kennedy's prospective one-term Presidency. It isn't that the vote was particularly close in most of these states, but that in all of them in most post-war elections -- indeed, consistently in many -- the vote went to the Republican Presidential candidate -- except for 1964. And they probably would have that year, too, except for the national psyche of the moment. Rather than an electoral defeat of 486 to 52, Goldwater could have polled a victory in the Electoral College approaching 385 to 153. The consequences for the Congress would have been as dramatic. The citizenry was not blaming Republicans or Goldwater, but was in a sentiment of deep sympathy for the martyred President. TABLE V -- Post-War and 1964 Presidential Voting (states voting Democratic in 1964) Electors State 1964 Dem 1964 Rep Voted Republican 3 Alaska 44329 22930 60,68,72,76,80,84,88,92 40 Calif. 4171877 2879108 48,52,56,60,68,72,76,80,84,88 6 Colo. 476024 296767 52,56,60,68,72,76,80,84,88 14 Florida 948540 905941 56,60,68,72,80,84,88,92 4 Idaho 148920 143557 52,56,60,68,72,76,80,84,88,92 26 Illinois 2796833 1905946 52,56,68,72,76,80,84,88 13 Indiana 1170848 911118 48,52,56,60,68,72,76,80,84,88,92 9 Iowa 733030 448148 52,56,60,68,72,76,80,84,88 7 Kansas 464028 368579 48,52,56,60,68,72,76,80,84,88,92 9 Kent. 660659 372977 52,56,60,68,72,80,84,88 4 Maine 262264 118701 48,52,56,60,72,76,80,84,88 21 Mich. 2136615 1060152 48,52,56,72,76,80,84,88 11 Minn. 779933 757915 52,56,72 13 Mo. 972201 962218 52,68,72,80,84,88 4 Mont. 164246 113032 52,56,60,68,72,76,80,84,88 5 Nebr. 307307 275847 48,52,56,60,68,72,76,80,84,88,92 3 Nevada 79339 56094 52,56,68,72,76,80,84,88 4 N.H. 182065 104029 48,52,56,60,68,72,76,80,84,88 17 N.J. 1867671 963843 52,56,68,72,76,80,84,88 4 N.M. 194017 131838 52,56,68,72,76,80,84,88 13 N.C. 800139 624844 68,72,80,84,88,92 4 N.D. 149784 108207 48,52,56,60,68,72,76,80,84,88,92 26 Ohio 2498331 1470865 52,56,60,68,72,80,84,88 8 Okla. 519834 412665 52,56,60,64,68,72,76,80,84,88,92 6 Oregon 501017 282779 48,52,56,60,68,72,76,80,84,88 32 Penn. 2556282 2439956 48,52,56,72,80,84,88 4 S.D. 163010 130108 48,52,56,60,68,72,76,80,85,88,92 11 Tenn. 635047 508965 52,60,68,72,80,84,88 25 Texas 1663185 958566 52,56,72,76,80,84,88,92 4 Utah 219628 181785 52,56,60,68,72,76,80,84,88,92 3 Vermont 107674 54868 48,52,56,60,68,72,76,80,84,88 12 Virginia 558038 481334 52,56,60,68,72,76,80,84,88,92 9 Wash. 779699 470366 52,56,60,72,76,80,84,88 12 Wisc. 1050424 638495 52,56,60,68,72,80,84,88 3 Wyo. 80718 61998 52,56,60,68,72,76,80,84,88,92 Continue