How Kennedy Won Hawaii's Three Electoral Votes in 1960, even though Nixon's Electors Were Certified As Winners by the Lieutenant Governor
In the 1960 presidential election, Hawaii's three electoral votes were cast for Senator John F. Kennedy even though the Republican electors supporting Vice-President Richard M. Nixon had been certified the winners.
This little noticed fact was mentioned by Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy in his dissent in Bush v. Gore.
The final poll taken before the election showed John F. Kennedy leading in Hawaii by 52.3%. Two days after the election, Kennedy's unofficial lead was 92 votes: 92,183 for Kennedy and 92,091 for Nixon.
On November 17, however, Nixon's electors were certified the winners when the final official tally gave the Republican a 141 vote margin.
The Democrats decided to demand a recount of the results of the election and the Republicans and Lieutenant Governor agreed not to contest the Democrats' petition.
The Democrats then filed suit in Circuit Court charging voting irregularities in 198 of Hawaii's 240 precincts. They claimed 1,283 ballots were unaccounted for in the final tabulation.
The 10 page complaint charged there were 235 more votes counted in the presidential contest than were actually cast. The complaint alleged that Kennedy and Johnson ballots were counted, but not marked on the tally sheet. Also, it was alleged that inspectors were counting ballots for Nixon and Lodge which had 2 X's placed in the square opposite the candidate's names. Ballots with more than one (X) were supposed to have been invalidated.
On November 30, Hawaii's Attorney General filed an answer to the Democrats contending they had failed to show any error or fraud.
On December 2nd, Circuit Court Judge Ronald B. Jamieson ordered a recount in 37 of Hawaii's 240 voting precincts including 32,273 votes.
Only sheets from one precinct - Precinct 6 of District 14 - were introduced as evidence. An election official testified that he found a 45 vote discrepancy. The precinct had 396 votes for the Kennedy - Johnson ticket, but there were only 351 tally marks beside that ticket's name.
An objection that the issue was "moot" because Kennedy had won the national election was rejected by the judge who said the issue was "who has been validly elected as Hawaii's three electors and alternates."
On December 13, a recount of 12 of the 34 contested precincts gave Kennedy a gain of only one vote. Nixon's lead was now 140 votes.
The next day, Nixon's lead was cut to 99 votes when the 42 vote error in the 6th precinct of the 14th district was finally changed. A legal technicality had prevented changing the figure earlier. Under Hawaii's vote audit procedures, the statement of the election booth inspector is followed. The report for the 6th precinct of the 14th district inadvertently failed to take into account 42 votes that had not been actually listed on a tally sheet.
The First 12 Precincts Are A Wash
There were other small errors in the recount of the 12 first precincts, but by coincidence, they cancelled each other out. There was no change in the first three precincts.
In the fourth precinct, Kennedy gained one and Nixon lost one. In the fifth Nixon and Kennedy each lost one. There was no change in the sixth, Nixon lost one in the seventh, both candidates lost one in the eighth, Kennedy lost four in the ninth, Kennedy lost one and Nixon lost two in the tenth precinct, Kennedy lost one in the eleventh precinct and Nixon lost one in the twelfth.
Overall, Nixon had lost seven votes in the recounted precincts and Kennedy lost eight but gained one.
The Recount Continues
As of December 14th, 29 of the 34 contested precincts had been recounted. The biggest discrepancy uncovered was in the 17th precinct of the 15th district, Manoa Valley. The original count for that district gave Nixon 520 votes and Kennedy 481. But when the ballots were recounted, the results showed that Kennedy was ahead 480 to Nixon's 452.
Democrats pointed out that the change in the district supported their argument for filing a recount petition. They had claimed that more votes had been tallied in some precincts than the actual number of voters who cast ballots. Manoa Valley turned out to be such a precinct.
Circuit Judge Ronald B. Jamieson refused to halt the recounting of ballots in 34 disputed precincts despite protests by the Attorney General's staff that Federal law would nullify results of the re-tally.
The Republicans claimed, as they would again 40 years later, that the recount should be stopped because the results should have been completed six days before the electoral college meets.
The judge did not agree, saying that even if the decision came after the six day deadline set by Federal Law, the Congress could take the results into consideration if the recount changed the result. Furthermore, the judge said, "I think it is a healthy thing that in a democracy where there had been a cloud cast on the accuracy of the vote to have it cleared up."
The Judge Orders Seven More Precincts To Be Recounted
With all 34 of the contested precincts recounted, Nixon's margin stood at 61. The Democrats then moved for a recount of the remaining 206 of Hawaii's 240 precincts.
In the 3rd precinct of the 11th district, the tally sheet showed 57 partially rejected ballots. "It's an amazing number of rejected ballots," said the judge. The judge then ordered a recount of 7 additional precincts, saying that if there was no change, then the recount would stop.
In one precinct selected by Judge Jamieson, (the 6th of the 18th on Kauai) there were 58 "unaccounted for ballots" out of 950 cast. Unaccounted for ballots occur when the number of presidential votes added to blank and rejected ballots is less than the total number of votes cast.
The democrats claimed there are 1,283 such unaccounted for ballots in 162 precincts. The Attorney General replied that the law does not require that every ballot be accounted for. Nevertheless Judge Jamieson ruled that a recount should be conducted in 7 more precincts with a total of 237 unaccounted for ballots.
Kennedy Pulls Into The Lead
On December 16, Kennedy pulled into the lead by 21 votes when four new precincts were recounted. A subsequent recount of 20 more precincts boosted Kennedy's margin to 55.
The Republican Governor Quinn had already certified Nixon the winner in Hawaii and Republican electors would cast official ballots. Kennedy was trailing by 141 votes at the start of the recount. He gained 80 votes in the first recount of 34 precincts, 27 votes in the second partial recount of 7 precincts; and 89 votes in the last recount of 24 precincts.
The Democrats request to re-open the ballot bags in 45 recounted precincts was rejected. The Democrats claimed that ballots with X's marked for both the presidential and vice-presidential candidates were valid, although ballot instructions specify only one X should be marked in the square.
Hundreds of ballots were rejected because the voter marked two X's.
Kennedy's Lead Grows to 96 - Full Recount Ordered
On the day before the electors were set to vote, Kennedy's lead in the Hawaii recount of 95 1/2 precincts had risen to 96 votes. Kennedy had gained a total of 237 votes since the beginning of the recount. As a result, Circuit Judge Ronald B. Jamieson ordered a recount of all the state's 240 precincts.
The Electors Vote Twice
Hawaii then cast two sets of electoral votes. The three Republican electors entered special voting booths in the plush throne room of the Iolani Palace and cast ballots for the Nixon-Lodge ticket. They were followed by the three Democrats who voted for Kennedy and Johnson on the basis of a partial recount showing Kennedy in the lead.
Some Republicans suggested that the voting booths be removed before the Democrats could vote, but the Lieutenant Governor's office allowed the booths to remain. Removing them would have made no technical difference.
If the full recount gave Kennedy the state, it would be up to Congress to decide who is entitled to Hawaii's three electoral votes. That is because Governor Quinn could not issue new certificates of election since the deadline had passed.
Republicans Allege Voting Fraud
The day after the electors voted, O. P. Soares, a Republican elector, asked Circuit Judge Ronald B. Jamieson to declare Hawaii's presidential election invalid and bring a possible voting fraud to the attention of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The reason for the request was that a specimen ballot was uncovered during the recount in the eighth precinct of the fourth district.
The specimen ballot was found in a bag of rejected ballots. The specimen ballot was marked in black lead pencil with an X for President-elect John F. Kennedy and Congressman Daniel K. Inouye.
"The use of the specimen ballot is contrary to law and a scheme of chain voting whereby a person is coerced or bought off to vote a certain way," Soares said.
The scheme works this way. The voter goes into the booth, makes a pretext of voting, and then puts into the ballot box what appears to be a proper ballot but which is in reality the specimen ballot.
The voter then leaves the booth with the blank official ballot he received when he entered the booth and hands it to the manipulator in charge of the scheme. The manipulator then marks the ballot for the candidate he favors and then hands it to the next person he has persuaded to vote his way.
Then the next voter goes into the booth, casts the marked official ballot and comes out with another official ballot.
The process could continue until all the persons influenced by the manipulator have cast ballots marked before they enter the booth. In this way, the manipulator can be sure the voters he is using have actually voted in the way he had instructed them.
The original count for the precinct in which the specimen was found was 207 votes for Kennedy and 187 votes for Nixon.
Kennedy Wins The Recount
On December 27, Circuit Judge Ronald B. Jamieson ruled that the presidential election in Hawaii was won by President-elect Kennedy by a 115 vote margin.
The judge first ruled that he did not see any evidence of vote fraud in the discovery of a specimen ballot in one of the precincts. "There is no evidence a specimen ballot was used in any sort of way in a vote fraud," the judge ruled. He termed the finding of the specimen ballot "a very serious matter." But the judge said about Soare's motion to invalidate the election, "It is disturbing to think that a person could invalidate an election by handing over to an election inspector or putting into a ballot box a specimen ballot. It could let a few people put our election system into chaos."
The final results were: Kennedy 92,440 to Nixon 92,295.
2,342 Invalid Ballots
Of the 187,047 ballots cast in the 1960 Hawaii presidential election, 2,342 ballots were rejected. The major reasons for rejected ballots were:
1. Marking 2 X's in a single box for either the Kennedy - Johnson or the Nixon - Lodge ticket.
2. Using ink or other marking other than the authorized lead pencil to mark a ballot. 3. Making an incorrect mark, such as a check or symbol other than the authorized "X".
4. Making an "X" in the blank space provided at the bottom of the presidential - House of Representatives joint ballot. The space was left there in the event one of the candidates should die, in which case a successor candidate's name would have been printed in.
5. Writing-in a candidate's name or marking other notations on the ballot. [Write-ins are not allowed in Hawaii. The denial of write-in votes in Hawaii was upheld by the same Supreme Court that stopped the 2000 count in Florida on "equal protection" grounds.]
6. Marking an "X" for every name on the ballot.
The Judge's Ruling
Circuit Judge Ronald B. Jamieson then ruled that John F. Kennedy won the election in Hawaii by a 115 vote margin. The ruling was made an official part of the record which the Democrats sent to Congress.
Senator Oren F. Long and Representative Daniel K. Inouye would present the Democratic argument for certification of Kennedy as the winner of Hawaii's first presidential election.
Nixon Adds Hawaii's 3 Electoral Votes To Kennedy's Column
On Friday, January 6, 1961, the electoral votes were tallied by roll-call in a joint session of Congress with Vice-President Richard M. Nixon presiding.
The roll-call went smoothly until Hawaii was reached. There were three sets of documents for Hawaii, which finally went to Kennedy after the official recount which had not been completed when the electors met in Honolulu on December 19th.
The tellers tossed that problem into Nixon's lap, and the Vice-President held without opposition that the latest document, dated January 4 and certifying the Kennedy electors, was the one that should be counted.
That made the presidential tally 303 for Kennedy, 219 for Nixon and 15 for Senator Harry F. Byrd of Virginia.
The outgoing Vice-President presided over the joint session under a constitutional provision that requires Congress to canvass the electoral votes. The votes actually were cast on December 19 by the electors of the 50 states.
Hawaii's vote was originally certified for Nixon, who held a 141 vote margin before a recount swung the state to Kennedy by 115 votes.
Objections Not Necessary
Hawaii's Democratic Senator Oren E. Long and Democratic Representative Daniel K. Inouye had laid plans to object to the count of the Nixon certificate, based on the original island vote count, if it was made official.
Long and Inouye came to the joint session carrying folders of documents to support their pro-Kennedy arguments, and Hawaii's Republican Senator Hiram L. Fong said he would not dispute the Kennedy vote.
When the joint session convened, Inouye seated himself in front of a microphone, opened his folder and motioned to his colleagues that he was prepared to present his objection.
When Nixon came to Hawaii in the state-by-state roll call, Long also opened his folder containing the Kennedy certificate and showed the impressive document to his fellow Senators.
The certificate that Nixon honored - thereby making Long's and Inouye's objection unnecessary - was mailed from Hawaii Wednesday night.
Governor William F. Quinn, a Republican, signed a certificate on Wednesday, January 4, accepting the Democratic electors and urging Congress to accept the Democratic victory when it counted the presidential votes on Friday January 6th.
The certificates reached Washington only hours before Congress convened.
When Hawaii was called, the certificates casting the state's votes for Nixon were presented, followed by those for Kennedy and the affidavit from Governor Quinn.
If there was objection to accepting the Democratic vote, Senator Oren E. Long and Congressman Daniel K. Inouye were ready to start a floor fight.
But Vice-President Nixon ruled that to expedite the count and with no desire to set a precedent, he would accept the votes of the Democratic electors from Hawaii.
††† And thatís why Nixon was able to come back eight years later to be elected president.