When the election of November 7, 1876 failed to resolve the presidential contest between Republican Rutherford B. Hayes and Democrat Samuel J. Tilden because of uncertain results in Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina, both national parties sent prominent representatives to the three southern capitals to observe and work for their partys’ interests. With Tilden only one electoral vote short of victory, the Republicans needed every one of the nineteen disputed votes. Because there had been less violence and corruption in Florida and because only a few votes separated the parties, many politicians believed it to be the crucial state. Under Florida law, a state canvassing board was empowered to exercise quasi-judicial authority in its examination of returns from the thirty-nine county canvassing boards. It could rule on the validity of those returns and decide whether or not to exclude them from the count. On the board there were two Republicans-Secretary of State Samuel B. McLin, a Southerner and long-time resident of Florida, and Comptroller Clayton A. Cowgill, an ex-Union army surgeon from Delaware and one Democrat, Attorney General William Archer Cocke, a Virginian who came to Florida in 1863.
Shofner, Jerrell H.
"Florida Courts and the Disputed Election of 1876,"
Florida Historical Quarterly: Vol. 48:
1, Article 5.
Available at: https://stars.library.ucf.edu/fhq/vol48/iss1/5