Fred Lucas, 1999 Western Kentucky University graduate and White House correspondent for The Daily Signal explores past presidential election disputes in his book, “Tainted by Suspicion: The Secret Deals and Electoral Chaos of Disputed Presidential Elections.”
The title of the book comes from a statement made about the 1876 race between Republican Rutherford B. Hayes and Democrat Samuel J. Tilden when Tilden won the popular vote, but Hayes eventually won the electoral votes. President Ulysses S. Grant, talking about the election outcome said, "The country cannot afford to have the result tainted by suspicion of illegal or false returns."
Lucas said he started writing the book in 2015 well before Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said he wouldn't necessarily accept the results of the 2016 presidential election. Lucas said what makes Trump's comments highly unusual is he made them prior to any votes being cast, versus in other elections when such comments were made after voting took place. However, he wouldn't be the first presidential candidate to hold out on conceding the election.
"Andrew Jackson never quite conceded; he basically ran a four-year campaign, and Al Gore didn't accept it until he didn't have a choice," Lucas said. "I think one major underlying thing in the book is after these presidents took office, a large portion of the public felt like the president was selected and not elected."
WKU Department of Political Science Assistant Professor Joel Turner said given the complex nature of our election system and how many people would have to be involved and actually keep quiet, it would be difficult to pull off something like that. He said it would be a criminal enterprise on an epic scale.
"Losing and being rigged isn't necessarily the same thing," Turner said. "Having mistakes is vastly different than something being rigged per se."
Turner said votes being counted improperly feeds the idea of elections being rigged, and when people don't like the outcome they criticize the courts. He said it is an odd strategy for Trump to use because he's creating the idea that no matter what the voters do, he's going to lose anyway. It could be a self-preservation mechanism, Turner said.
WKU political science Professor Scott Lasley said claims of elections being rigged aren't terribly productive, and that it would be problematic if a presidential candidate did not accept the results of an election.
"At the end of the day, government depends on legitimacy. These claims undermine legitimacy. I think at the end of the day any presidential candidate is going to accept the results," Lasley said. "The idea of a rigged election is meant to target people's emotions other than logic."
Lucas said he thinks people would want to know how past presidential election matters were settled and the secret deals made behind the scenes. He said it's worth knowing that our leaders haven't always been necessarily who the voters wanted to put in office. He said one big takeaway from the book is the notion of whether politics are more polarized today that at other times. Lucas asks the question to those who believe that notion: When has politics been less polarized?
"Politics in America have been polarized quite often, and it's kind of the price you pay for democracy," Lucas said. "Sometimes polarization is necessary to bring about much needed change."
The Commonwealth of Kentucky Office of the Attorney General encourages voters to report any voting abnormalities to the office’s Election Fraud Hotline. Kentuckians who witness election irregularities or possible election law violations should call the Election Fraud Hotline at 800-328-VOTE or 800-328-8683. The hotline is open throughout the year during normal business hours and from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. EST on Election Day.
— Follow faith/general assignments reporter Simone C. Payne on Twitter @_SimonePayne or visit bgdailynews.com.