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1960: Who Really Won?


Just shot an episode of Uncommon Knowledge, on the Electoral College, on which my guests were Tara Ross (whose new book, Enlightened Democracy: The Case for the Electoral College is wonderfully cogent) and Jack Rakove, a professor of history here at Stanford. When I asked how many times the Electoral College had given chosen as president the candidate who had lost the popular vote, Tara and Jack mentioned the elections that usually get mentioned, namely those of 1876, 1888 and 2000, in which the winners of the popular vote (Tilden, Cleveland and Gore, respectively) lost the electoral vote (to Hayes, Harrison and George W. Bush), and that of 1824, in which it is possible but not certain (because of the way states cast their votes in those days) that Jackson won the popular vote, even though he lost the final electoral vote to John Quincy Adams. Then Jack added the election of 1960, making an assertion that I’d never, ever heard.

In 1960, Jack explained, a number of Southern states, including, for example, Alabama, placed two slates of Democratic electors on the ballot, one slate that was pledged to vote for John Kennedy, and a second that was pledged to vote for Virginia senator Harry Byrd. If you subtract the votes for Byrd from the overall Democratic vote total to derive the number of votes actually cast for John Kennedy, you’ll discover is that the candidate who actually won the 1960 popular vote was…Richard Nixon.

John Kennedy, minority president.

Why do you suppose Michael Moore has never complained about that?