by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator
“All of which goes to prove that the smartest man cannot forecast the results of an election in which the American people take the leading part.”
-Editor, Evening Kansan Republican, 12 November 1916.
On November 8 people in Harvey County will go to the polls to vote in a presidential election. One hundred years ago, on November 7, 1916, Harvey County citizens also voted for the next president choosing between the incumbent Woodrow Wilson, a Democrat, and Republican challenger, Charles E. Hughes.
Polls opened at 8 am. on Tues, November 7 and the voters had “10 hours in which to deposit ballots.” At 6 pm, the polls closed. This was the first election to use “the double election board system” in precincts with over 250 voters in Harvey County. A “counting board” began the work of counting ballots at noon. Everyone was encouraged to “get to the polls early and thus keep the counting board busy.” This board counted both the state and national ballots for the county.
The Evening Kansan Republican predicted fair voting weather and that the State Chairman of the Republican expected that Hughes would win Kansas by 35,000. Popular Kansas Governor, Arthur Capper, Republican, was also on the ballot and during the last day of campaigning, Capper was “pleading for support for Hughes” in Kansas. By then end of the day on Nov. 7, Hughes had won in Harvey County.
The voting equipment might have looked somewhat different.In our collection we have two ballot boxes.
A wooden box used in Darlington Township, Harvey County, used beginning in the 1880s.
The second is a metal cylinder used for voting for the 2nd Ward, Newton, Harvey County.
While waiting for the results of the national vote many attend the “house warming and hearing election returns” event at the Y.M.C.A.. Nearly 1500 people stopped by the Y.M.C.A. at some point during the evening. The atmosphere was festive.
“There was something doing all the time, in the gymnasium, which gave entertainment. . . . A big crowd assembled in the balcony of the gym and the floor to watch basket ball played by the College team and the senior team of the Y.M.C.A. . . . won by the college with a score of 37 to 9.”
Due to the large crowd a volleyball game could not be played, but people enjoyed musical selections by the College Band all evening. Many from the rural districts remained until 4:30 in the morning waiting for results.
The next day the editor of the Evening Kansan Republican proudly noted that “Harvey County did her share” adding,
“aside from three certain pestiferous democrats who seem to have formed a habit of getting themselves elected to office, the republicans made a clean sweep of the county ticket . . . just as though there had never been a rift in the party.”
Despite support in Harvey County, the outcome of the national election was more uncertain. On Thursday, the paper reported that “both committees still confident” of a win. There was a dramatic race for votes in Minnesota and the chairman of the Republican party refused to concede until the results were “official.” The Saturday, November 11 paper noted that Wilson’s “re-election now practically certain.”
The official returns for the last state, Minnesota, was not complete until November 18, 1916. Despite a Republican victory in Minnesota, Wilson had already won his bid for re-election as President of the United States.
Kansas as a state voted for Wilson, despite efforts by Gov. Capper and Harvey County voters.
One of the looming issues was the Great War raging in Europe, and whether or not the U.S. would become involved. Wilson was elected on the promise “He Kept Us Out of War,” which proved to be a promise he could not keep.
- Evening Kansan Republican: 6 November 1916, 7 November 1916, 8 November 1916, 9 November 1916, 10 November 1916, 11 November 1916, 13 November 1916, 14 November 1916, 16 November 1916, 18 November 1916.