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5 times in which a U.S. president was elected, but lost the popular vote

Photo by Ira Wyman/Sygma via Getty Images
Photo by Ira Wyman/Sygma via Getty Images (Getty Images)

While the votes are still being tabulated for the presidential election between Joe Biden and President Donald Trump, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that whoever is elected could lose the popular vote.

Since the Electoral College was established as the means of electing a president, it hasn’t been often when a president won the election without winning the popular vote.

Time will tell in the coming days whether it will be the case again this year between Biden and Trump.

However, it has happened these five times:

1824 -- John Quincy Adams

For those who think this era was immune to political controversy and accusations, think again.

This election had to be decided by a vote in the House of Representatives after none of the four candidates received a majority of the electoral votes required.

The candidates were Adams, Andrew Jackson, William Crawford and Henry Clay.

Only the top three were eligible for the vote, so Clay was eliminated from consideration.

But Clay also happened to be the Speaker of the House, which turned out to be important, according to History.com.

Despite the fact that Jackson had more electoral votes and won the popular vote, the House voted Adams as President.

After being sworn in, Adams appointed Clay as his Secretary of State.

Needless to say, Jackson was none too pleased, and accused Adams and Clay of corrupting the election.

1876 -- Rutherford B. Hayes

In a race between Hayes and Democratic opponent Samuel Tilden, the 184 electoral votes collected by Hayes was one short of the majority needed to win. Hayes had 165 votes, but 20 votes came into dispute by both parties.

As a result, a bi-partisan commission composed of congressional members and Supreme Court justices was formed, and the Commission agreed to give Hayes the remaining 20 votes in dispute, and thus, the election.

Some historians believe the decision to give Hayes the presidency came down after a deal was struck between the Democrats and Republicans, according to History.com.

It’s theorized that the deal was for Democrats to let Hayes win the election in return for Republicans pulling federal troops from the Confederate states.

1888 -- Benjamin Harrison

Incumbent Democratic president Grover Cleveland took on the Republican nominee in Harrison, and this election was marred with bribery accusations.

Both parties accused the other of paying citizens to vote for their candidate, according to History.com.

Cleveland ended up winning the popular vote by more than 90,000 votes, but Harrison won the electoral vote, 233-168.

The two ended up going against each other in the 1892 election, with Cleveland this time prevailing to become the only president to ever serve two non-consecutive terms.

2000 -- George W. Bush

On the night of the election, it became clear that whoever won the state of Florida would win the presidency in the race between Al Gore and Bush.

The problem was figuring out who won Florida.

After TV stations initially declared Bush the winner, hours later, they retracted because the voting proved too close to call.

Eventually, the courts decided the election.

The Florida Supreme Court reversed a decision by Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, declaring Bush the winner by 537 votes, agreeing with Gore’s premise that not all ballots had been counted.

Bush then pulled out his big trump card, appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court, which had a 5-4 Republican majority.

By that expected 5-4 margin, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the decision from Florida’s state court and called Bush the winner of Florida.

That gave Bush a 271-266 win in the electoral vote, even though Gore won the popular vote by roughly 500,000 more votes.

2016 -- Donald Trump

The polls seemed to favor Hillary Clinton before Election Day, and so did the popular vote, once the votes were cast, since Clinton had 2.8 more million votes than Trump at the time.

But the electoral vote was a completely different matter, with Trump earning 304 votes to Clinton’s 227.


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