Written by Evan Spencer, graduate assistant
Today is election day all across America!
The Albert Gore Research Center houses papers of regional and university significance, but one of our primary collecting areas is political papers. From the papers of the Tennessee League of Women Voters to the recently-acquired Papers of Representative Bart Gordon, the AGRC is a great place to research politics and elections in Tennessee.
Today’s elections include all 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, 33 of the seats in the U.S. Senate, as well as gubernatorial elections in 39 states or territories. As if that wasn’t enough, there are plenty of state and local elections to worry about, too! Who ever said midterm elections weren’t important?
Sometimes, the world of elections can be tiring and seem overwhelming. Despite this, voting and participating in American democracy is what makes us citizens and keeps our government working for us. Here at the AGRC, we have many collections pertaining not just to the careers of successful politicians, but also to their countless campaigns for election and re-election. Let’s take a look at some of my favorite election-themed items from the museum collection.
First off, we have a sizable collection of campaign buttons, like these:
Next, we have larger campaign materials:
Although a majority of our museum collection’s political ephemera is from Tennessee, we also collect items of national significance. There have been a few hotly contested presidential elections in American history. In 1800, Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr tied with 73 electoral votes apiece, which sent the election to the House of Representatives. The Election of 1824 became known as the “corrupt bargain,” after John Quincy Adams was elected by the House of Representatives, despite Andrew Jackson winning a plurality of the original electoral votes (Note that a majority of electoral votes is required to win the presidency).
Fast-forward nearly 200 years to the presidential election of 2000, and we are still having issues. The election pitted Al Gore Jr. against George W. Bush, and eventually, the decision came down to who would win Florida. At the time, Florida used punched-card ballots, which required voters to poke holes in the paper ballot and drop it in a ballot box. As many of us remember, the outcome could not be decided on election night. George W. Bush was eventually declared the winner, but the vote was so close (Bush won by 537 votes in Florida, officially), that Gore requested a recount. In the end, Bush won the electoral votes from Florida, which in turn gave him the presidency by a margin of 271-266 over Gore.
At the Albert Gore Research Center, our museum collection houses several objects from this contested election:
Can’t get enough election related materials? Check out our Political Jingles online exhibit!
Remember to go out and vote!