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Electoral Triva

Out of all the US Presidential elections in the last 100 years (meaning 1908 to 2004) how many times did a third candidate actually get electoral votes?

It is more than I actually would have thought. Ten times out of 25 elections. A full 40% of the elections in that time period.

Here they are:

  • 1912 – Wilson (Democrat) 435, Roosevelt (Progressive) 88, Taft (Republican) 8
  • 1924 – Coolidge (Republican) 382, Davis (Democrat) 136, LaFollette (Progressive) 13
  • 1948 – Truman (Democrat) 303, Dewey (Republican) 189, Thurmond (States Rights) 39
  • 1956* – Eisenhower (Republican) 457, Stevenson (Democrat) 73, Jones (Independant) 1
  • 1960 – Kennedy (Democrat) 303, Nixon (Republican) 219, Byrd (Democrat) 15
  • 1968 – Nixon (Republican) 301, Humphrey (Democrat) 191, Wallace (American Independent) 46
  • 1972* – Nixon (Republican) 520, McGovern (Democrat) 17, Hospers (Libertarian) 1
  • 1976* – Carter (Democrat) 297, Ford (Republican) 240, Reagan (Republican) 1
  • 1988* – Bush (Republican) 426, Dukakis (Democrat) 111, Bentsen (Democrat) 1
  • 2004* – Bush (Republican) 286, Kerry (Democrat) 251, Edwards (Democrat) 1

(Source: National Archives)

The ones with asterisks are cases where the third person got an electoral vote due only to a faithless elector. In all the other cases the third person actually “earned” the electoral votes.

(Or at least most of them… in a couple of cases faithless electors added to a third candidate’s total, but the candidate also got other electoral votes by the normal means… and the 1960 case was interesting too as some of the electors were actually directly elected as unpledged electors… some of whom voted for Byrd, who wasn’t actually running.)

Given that, you could discount 5 of those 10 elections. Even so, you are left with 5 elections (20% of the elections) where a third person “legitimately” earned electoral votes. Which is more often than I would have thought.

Now granted, while the last “faithless elector” incident was very recent… the 2004 election… the last time a third candidate actually “won” electors was 1968, a full 40 years ago. So we’re a bit overdue! It doesn’t look all that likely this time around, but perhaps in 2012. :-)

But maybe we could have a faithless elector or two. That could be fun. :-)

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