In what way is the 1896 presidential election relevant to electoral politics in 21st century America?

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mkoren | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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The electoral results of the 1896 presidential election are similar to what happens in today’s elections.  William Jennings Bryan won many southern and western states.  In those days, the population of these states was fairly small. Thus, there weren’t that many electoral votes to win.  McKinley, on the other hand, won states with large populations and many electoral votes.

In today’s presidential election process, there are some states that never get visits from candidates because their population is so small, and they have only three or four electoral votes.  Candidates basically ignore these states.  Instead, the candidates will concentrate on states with many electoral votes and on several swing states.  The swing states are ones that could go either way and usually have at least ten electoral votes. Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, Ohio, and Colorado are some examples of swing states.  Thus, today’s candidates concentrate on states with a large number of electoral votes and those states that could go either way and have at least ten electoral votes.

It is not important how many states a candidate wins, but which states the candidate wins is critical.  This was true in 1896 and in today’s elections.

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