Historical Highlights

A New Hampshire Contested Election

June 09, 1938
A New Hampshire Contested Election Image courtesy of Library of Congress New Hampshire Representative Arthur Jenks pictured shortly after the state ballot-law commission declared him the winner by a margin of 10 votes over Alphonse Roy. The House conducted its own investigation and declared Roy the victor.
On this date, the House seated Representative Alphonse Roy of New Hampshire after he successfully contested the election of another freshman Congressman, Arthur B. Jenks. On November 3, 1936, Jenks—a Republican and former manufacturer and banker in Manchester—had ostensibly won election by 550 votes for a district encompassing southeastern New Hampshire. Democratic challenger Alphonse Roy, a former real estate agent and state representative, contested the results. After a number of recounts by state officials—in which Roy and Jenks traded leads—the state ballot-law commission determined that Jenks had won by 10 votes. He was sworn in to the 75th Congress (1937–1939) as one of a GOP minority that comprised less than a quarter of the House membership. Roy and his supporters then contested the election to the House Committee on Elections No. 3, claiming that Jenks had won based on 34 votes ostensibly cast for him that apparently went missing from the small hamlet of Newton, New Hampshire. Tally sheets indicated that 458 votes were cast, but officials only counted 424 ballots when they opened the sealed ballot box in Concord. The committee headed to Newton in the summer of 1937 to determine how many people actually voted in the previous fall elections. The small town greeted the congressional visitors with amusement. “They came in automobiles and on foot. . . . I have never seen a more cheerful cooperation,” James Wadsworth of New York observed. “[P]erhaps they rather entertained the feeling that we had come up there to find whether they knew how to run an election honestly.” The committee eventually sided with Roy, determining that the ballots did not go missing after interviewing more than 400 people in Newton, many of whom cut their summer vacations short to return and testify. The committee report concluded that Roy had won by a margin of 20 votes. The decision instigated a three-hour-long debate on the House Floor. Republicans, such as Charles Gifford of Massachusetts, accused the Democratic majority of attempting “to disenfranchise voters.” The House, however, finally agreed to seat Roy, 227 to 109. He was sworn in a few minutes later; he served for less than six months, until Jenks defeated him the following November. Although the election was close, it was not the narrowest tally in a House contest. In at least two examples, House candidates won by a single vote. In 1823, the Elections Committee determined that Parmenio Adams defeated Isaac Wilson in New York’s 29th District by one vote. In 1910, Charles B. Smith won New York’s 36th District by one vote over challenger De Alva Alexander.

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