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  John C. Wright - the Father of "the Popular Vote" in US Presidential Elections
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ContributorChronicler 
Last EditedChronicler  May 23, 2008 10:22am
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News DateFriday, May 23, 2008 02:00:00 AM UTC0:0
DescriptionOCland - Today while compiling information for the narrative for the US Presidential election of 1828, I discovered something interesting. The term "popular vote" had not been used in the presidential election of 1824. Furthermore, no newspapers carried tables of the popular vote in 1824.

In searching through the newspaper index of the New England Historical Genealogical Society, the term "popular vote" appeared in scattered references between 1801 and 1820 to describe the choice of Presidential Electors by the people rather than by the legislatures.

The term "THE popular vote" was used in a speech in the U.S. House by Rep. George McDuffie in 2/15/1826. The U.S. House was debating a Jacksonian proposal to allow the election of the president by a plurality of the electoral vote. McDuffie offered an alternate, by which the nation would be broken into districts each choosing one Presidential Elector. The people would choose their local Elector, and the candidate who won the most electoral votes would be declared elected (even with just a plurality). During his lengthy speech, which was carried by many newspapers, McDuffie referred to the selection of Electors by district as "the popular vote" (Richmond [VA] Enquirer, 3/2/1826). Though he used the term, he did not intend the definition in use today - he meant that the people would choose the Presidential Electors.

In early 1827, Jackson supporters contacted state newspapers and asked for the results of the election of 1824. This information was assembled into a table of the "people's vote" and distributed to show that Jackson placed first in 1824 and was therefore the choice of the populace. When U.S. Rep. John C. Wright [Link] included this table in a speech before the U.S. House (printed in the New Hampshire Sentinel on 3/28/1828), he referred to the information in the table as "the popular votes." At this point, the term "popular vote" came to have the specific meaning as that used by Wright and came into common usage.
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