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These US Elections Saw the Highest Voter Turnout Rates

November 2, 2020 in History

By Becky Little

Voter turnout rates peaked in the 1870s and decreased in the 20th century.

Most modern presidential elections in the United States have a voter turnout rate of between 50 and 60 percent. Yet voter turnout rates have fluctuated throughout the country’s history based on who has the right to vote, whether people who have the right to vote are actually able to vote and how high voters perceive the stakes of an election to be. Already, the 2020 election looks like it may have the biggest voter turnout in over a century.

Highest Voter Turnout Rate Ever in 1870s

The lowest voter turnout rate for a presidential race was in 1792, when the only people who could vote were white men, and some states restricted the vote to property-owning white men. That year, a paltry 6.3 percent of that narrow field of eligible voters, or roughly 28,000 people, re-elected George Washingtion. The first time presidential voter turnout surpassed 50 percent was in 1828, when Andrew Jackson beat incumbent John Quincy Adams. After that, it trended upwards, peaking in the late 19th century.

The highest voter turnout rate for a presidential race was in 1876, when 82.6 percent of eligible voters (white and Black men) cast ballots in the race between Republican Rutherford Hayes and Democrat Samuel Tilden. Despite the high turnout, it was an election filled with rampant voter suppression. Black men had recently won the right to vote with the 15th Amendment, and white southern men were intent on preventing them from voting using paramilitary violence.

The outgoing president was Republican Ulysses S. Grant, a former Union general who had successfully broken up the terrorist Ku Klux Klan, but whose administration was filled with scandals. During this era, northern voters and southern Black male voters generally favored the Republican Party, while southern white men favored the Democratic Party. Angry at Reconstruction reforms that had given political power to Black men, these southern white men sought to secure a Democratic victory, sometimes using violent means.

READ MORE: How the ‘Party of Lincoln’ Won Over the Once Democratic South

Historian Eric Foner has said that without voter suppression, Republican candidate Hayes probably would have easily won the popular vote. Instead, election returns showed that he’d lost the popular vote with 47.9 percent compared to Tilden’s 50.9 percent, but that he’d won …read more


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Were These Taunting Letters Really from D.B. Cooper, the Mysterious 1971 Hijacker?

November 2, 2020 in History

By Lesley Kennedy

After he parachuted from a 727 passenger plane with ransom money—and disappeared—newspapers started receiving weird letters.

After an exhaustive 45-year investigation, the , was received on November 29, 1971. Using letters cut and paste from a Sacramento Bee newspaper, it read: “Attention! Thanks for the hospitality. Was in a rut.”

A second letter, handwritten and signed “D.B. Cooper,” was postmarked November 30, 1971 and sent to the Vancouver Province in British Columbia with the following message:

“The composite drawing on Page 3 as suspected by the FBI does not represent the truth.

“I enjoyed the Grey Cup game. Am leaving Vancouver.

“Thanks for the hospitality.”

WATCH: D.B. Cooper: Case Closed? on HISTORY Vault.

NorthWest Orient Airlines ticket of Dan Cooper, pseudonym of the unidentified man who hijacked a Boeing 727 aircraft on November 24, 1971. The man purchased his airline ticket using the alias Dan Cooper but became known in popular lore as D. B. Cooper.

A third letter, mailed in northern Oregon on December 1, 1971, was received by the Portland Oregonian. Using letters cut from a Playboy magazine, it read, “Am alive and doing well in hometown. P.O. The system that beats the system.”

Letter number four, received by the Reno Evening Gazette, was also mailed December 1 (but from the Sacramento, California area). Pasted from letters, it read, “Plan ahead for retirement income” and was signed “D.B. Cooper.”

A fifth letter, signed “D.B. Cooper” and brimming with taunts, was postmarked December 11, 1971 and sent to The New York Times, Seattle Times, Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post.—and The FBI released its contents after a private investigative team led by documentary filmmaker Thomas Colbert filed a Freedom of Information Act request.

“Sirs, I knew from the start that I wouldn’t be caught,” the letter read. “I didn’t rob Northwest Orient because I thought it would be romantic, heroic or any of the other euphemisms that seem to attach to situations of high risks. I’m no modern day Robin Hood. Unfortunately I do have only 14 months to live.

“My life has been one of hate, turmoil, hunger and more hate; this seemed to be the fastest and most profitable way to gain a few fast grains of peace of mind. I don’t blame people for hating me for what I’ve done nor do I blame anybody for wanting me to be caught and punished, though …read more