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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

November 26, 1960: Editorial Foresees Constitutional Crisis if Nixon Wins Illinois

If the general counsel of the Republican National Committee, Meade Alcorn, is right in predicting that Illinois’ twenty-seven electoral votes will wind up in the Nixon column, the nation will be facing the most serious predicament in its Presidential history since the Hayes-Tilden battle of 1876-77,” said the lead editorial in the New York Times on this day in 1960.

“Mr. Alcorn’s statement was based on the charge that the apparent Democratic margin of over 300,000 in Cook County was fraudulently achieved, and that an honest count would reduce its sufficiently to wipe out the unofficial state-wide majority of 8,200 for Senator Kennedy (out of a total of 4,750,000), thus giving Illinois to the Vice President.

“In that event, Mr. Kennedy’s electoral vote would drop to 273, only four above the requisite minimum of 269. This is no doubt that feverish attempts would than be made to prove fraud or error in others of the extremely close states won by Mr. Kennedy such as New Jersey (with 16 electoral votes), New Mexico (4), South Carolina (8), even Texas (24). The Democrats would probably try to prove that Mr. Kennedy had really won Hawaii (3) and Alaska (3), both now attributed to Mr. Nixon by miniscule margins, and perhaps even California (32).

“Looming over all this confusion would be the hard fact that Mississippi’s eight electors are unpledged to either candidate, as are six of Alabama’s. These electors, plus other like-minded ones, might actually hold the balance of power in a showdown, throwing the election into the House, where Mr. Kennedy would almost surely win, anyway.

“For the good of the country we hope that such a train of events does not develop. Its very possibility is an excellent argument for reform of the electoral system. In any event it is now imperative that the results in each state be definitively settled by the time the electoral college meets on Dec. 19 so that there can be no shadow of doubt about the validity of the respective electors’ choice. It is of supreme importance that the country be satisfied that the list of electors chosen in each state actually does represent the will of the majority of voters in that state.

“Fraud in an election is one of the basic crimes against democracy; yet there unfortunately is always danger of fraud, especially when an election is as close as this one. We would hazard the guess that if there has been fraud, it has been confined neither to one state nor to one political party. Neither candidate would have wished to benefit by fraud and it is to the interest of both candidates, as well as of vital importance to the country as a whole, that any electoral fraud be exposed and punished. But if it is to be done, it must be done quickly. Any doubt or uncertainty about the election arising from the charges and accusations that have been made can only be harmful to the best interests of the United States.”

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