A Short History of Presidential Election Crises

A Short History of Presidential Election Crises
(And How to Prevent the Next One)





Interview on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour
Apr 6, 2020

Ralph welcomes Constitutional scholar Alan Hirsch to talk about how best–amid a pandemic—we can still conduct a legitimate presidential election.


Interview on "Tuesday Buzz" WORT Madison WI
Mar 31, 2020

Interview with Stan Woodard who broadcasts from his home, while he shelters in place.  Begins at 16 minute mark.


Interview on "Gorilla Radio" CFUV, Victoria, BC
Mar 31, 2020

Those praying the US presidential campaign would finally end already may have found a receptive ear above, (or wherever these kinds of entreaties are heard). But, as the old saw warns, they might want now to have more carefully wished.

With the Democratic Party postponing 14 state primaries, (as of this writing) there are now growing calls for both parties to cancel national conventions and end campaign appearances.

It would be an unprecedented move that could well effect the way democracy is done in America for this election, and beyond 2020.

Alan Hirsch, is an Instructor in the Humanities and Chair of the Justice and Law Studies program at Williams College, and author of numerous works of legal scholarship and many books, including 'For the People: What the Constitution Really Says About Your Rights', 'Impeaching the President: Past, Present, and Future', and the just released, 'A Short History of Presidential Election Crises (and How to Prevent the Next One)'.

His articles appear at, among other places, the Washington Post, LA Times, Newsday, and Common Dreams, where I found his recent article, Is America Prepared for a Presidential Election Crisis? Hirsch asks "what if" Covid-19, or some other external forces, drive November's poll into the shadows, or worse, onto the internet?


Interview on "Letters & Politics" KPFA Berkeley
Mar 30, 2020

Alan Hirsch discusses how to elect a president in the time of the Coronavirus, with host Mitch Jeserich.


Interview on "The Carney Show" KTRS St Louis, MO
Mar 27, 2020

Interview begins at the 1 hour & 8 minute mark. Alan Hirsch discusses problems beyond the Coronavirus that could affect our elections. 


Interview with Ian Masters on "Background Briefing," KPFK Los Angeles
Mar 22, 2020

We begin with how the coronavirus has wiped the Democratic primary election campaign from the headlines as the contagion intensifies and the possibility of the November elections being cancelled or modified arises. Alan Hirsch, Chair of the Justice and Law Studies program at Williams College and author of the new book A Short History of Presidential Election Crises (And How to Prevent the Next One), joins us to discuss how our broken healthcare system and our broken election systems combine to produce an unprecedented threat to American democracy itself. He has an article at Common Dreams "Is America Prepared for a Presidential Election Crisis? If we are smart, we will take appropriate measures before the next crisis" and we assess the challenges of voting by mail or online under a national lockdown (or even a declaration of martial law, assuming Trump does not cancel the elections). And because the Electoral College narrows the presidential contest to a few states, this allows Russian and other hackers the opportunity to change votes and call into question the accuracy of the count thus compounding the chaos and confusion. After four presidential elections so far in our history, Americans have awakened the day after the elections without knowing who won and without a reliable mechanism to resolve the uncertainty. But we have never had a president like Trump who displays despotic tendencies, has a disregard for the law and democratic values and, according to testimony before Congress from his long-time lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen, will not leave the Oval Office if he is defeated at the polls.


Interview on KCBS San Francisco, Bay Area
Mar 21, 2020

The impact of the coronavirus has already been felt in our electoral process, with multiple states choosing to postpone their primaries. If the virus requires a long term response, that impact may also be felt in November's general election.

KCBS Radio Anchor Melissa Culross was joined by Alan Hirsch, Chair of the Justice and Law Studies program at Williams College and author of a new book A Short History of Presidential Election Crises.


Feature on the LA Progressive
Mar 21, 2020

What if, on account of the Coronavirus, we attempt to hold the 2020 presidential election entirely on-line or through the mail, and it turns into a logistical nightmare?   What if hackers succeed in changing votes from one candidate to another, calling into question the accuracy of the electoral count?


Interview on "Rising Up With Sonali"
Mar 17, 2020

"President Donald Trump has joked multiple times about running for a 3rd or 4th term. The coronavirus pandemic has sparked some Republicans to call for a postponement of the 2020 general election. And some primary races have already been postponed due to the virus. In a good year the US suffers from numerous barriers to voting, problems with voting machines, voter ID laws, and even foreign interference. The strength of our democracy relies on the trust of its citizens that elections are properly conducted. Now, a new history book explores the many chapters of Presidential election crises in the US with some solutions for our current era."


Essay on Common Dreams "Is America Prepared for a Presidential Election Crises?"
Mar 12, 2020

"What if, on account of the coronavirus, we attempt to hold the 2020 presidential election entirely on-line or through the mail, and it turns into a logistical nightmare?  What if a major terrorist attack prevents holding the election on November 3? How about if, on Election Day, destructive weather prevents voting in some states? And what if hackers succeed in changing votes from one candidate to another, calling into question the accuracy of the electoral count?"


Kirkus * Starred Review

"The noted law historian, author of Impeaching the President, examines the handful of seriously problematic presidential elections in American history and what the Constitution elucidates about the process of undoing such an event—namely, nothing. Like many historians and political analysts, Hirsch believes the Electoral College is direly flawed and should be abolished. In his latest book, he begins with an overview of the presidential election process, set out in Article II of the Constitution, which was soon to be revealed by Alexander Hamilton as a 'defect.' In the election of 1800, between Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr, each received the same votes, and the crisis resulted in the 12th Amendment, creating a distinct ballot for president and vice president. However, in 1824, the race between John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson resulted in a tie and had to be brokered by the House of Representatives, as per the Constitution. It came down to the wheedling of charismatic Speaker of the House Henry Clay to throw his support behind Adams—perhaps in return for his appointing him secretary of state, the so-called 'corrupt bargain.' In the 1876 election, Samuel Tilden received 250,000 more votes than Rutherford B. Hayes, yet three states were ‘too close to call’ (South Carolina, Florida, and Louisiana)—an eerie similarity to the future 2000 nail-biter between Al Gore and George W. Bush, which came down to one state, Florida, and was thrown to the courts for a decision. Hirsch quotes election law expert Edward Foley: ‘the Hayes-Tilden dispute exposed structural frailties in the nation’s constitutional order that . . . were unchanged in 1876 and remain unchanged today’—decidedly unnerving news as we approach the 2020 election. In the concluding chapters, the author delineates the ‘fraud and chaos’ rampant in the EC and argues for a constitutional amendment for handling future crises. A highly relevant study featuring much food for thought and prospects for change."Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review