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Elections can be better than Halloween

Here we are at Halloween again, munchkins begging for munchies while dancing along the street in quasi-Mardi Gras outfits. As a matter of fact, some may be coming for the second consecutive evening because of the occasion falling on a Sunday.

I would really look forward to Halloween if I were allowed to hide behind the rosebush and leap out at the kids like a crazed mugger in Central Park. But my wife Saundra threatened to take away my tool box if I give in to my impulses. It’s a major disappointment in my life because I really enjoy intimidating pre-schoolers — unless they’re armed of course.

Oh well. I suppose I need to write about something even scarier than Halloween: the election.

Maybe I shouldn’t use the word scary. When things go reasonably close to the way they should, presidential elections are not evil occasions. Maybe it’s because of my legal training or all those political science classes I took as an undergraduate about 300 years ago, but I get downright fascinated by politics.

I think elections can be more fun than a bucket of snakes at a mongoose reunion.

Even with all the negativity, the election has captured my attention. One of the most enjoyable parts is making predictions and periodically adjusting them as the pollsters play their games. Maybe political memory will prevent an extended dispute this time around. Perhaps we have learned enough to avoid a huge controversy and delay in the decision such as occurred in a previous electoral blood-letting.

Of course speculating about a certain past presidential election is fun. Controversy, especially those disputed votes from Florida, really spiced things up a few years ago — regardless of which candidate anyone favored.

The southeastern portion of the country cast doubts, particularly when some disgruntled southern Democrats decided to side with Republicans. State election commissions were accused of unfairly disqualifying opposition votes. People allegedly denied voting rights to blacks. The matter became settled in all these states except Florida, where (among other allegations) people were accused of losing ballots, voting more than once, permitting non-citizen voting, and creating difficult-to-understand ballots in apparently selected precincts.

In short, it was a mess that continued from days to weeks to months. The outgoing president actually considered dispatching troops to establish order.

Eventually, a commission composed of five senators, five representatives, and five Supreme Court justices was authorized by Congress to resolve the disputed election once and for all. But the dispute continued. Inauguration day came closer and closer with no resolution in sight. Republicans and Democrats continued pointing fingers at each other.

Just two days before the start of the new presidential term, one of the candidates conceded in the interest of national unity, even though he won the popular vote and, some say, the electoral vote. To this day many think the election was stolen.

We all know which election this was, right? Or do we? Care to make a guess?

It was the election of 1876, our nation’s centennial year. Gov. Samuel J. Tilden of New York won 184 electoral votes. Gov. Rutherford B. Hayes of Ohio earned 185, thus earning the nickname “Rutherfraud.”

Now ain’t this more fun than Halloween?

Jim Lee is news director for KENW-FM radio. He also is an English instructor. He can be contacted at 359-2204. His e-mail:

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