Republican Election Tendencies: Intimidation, Fraud, and Bribery
At the same time, the Republican returning boards in Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina left themselves open to reasonable charges of conflict of interest and even corruption. The members of the boards were appointed state government officials whose self-interests were vested in Republicans retaining control of their states and the White House. Before the enactment of a merit bureaucracy, patronage was the lifeblood of the party system, and this was especially true in the South where Republicans were fighting for their political lives. The returning board in Louisiana rejected over 13,000 Democratic ballots and nearly 2,500 Republican ones, thereby delivering the election to Hayes and the state governorship to the Republican, Stephen Packard.
Outright corruption was even more of a concern than conflict of interest and, in fact, it undermined the notion that the boards were resolutely loyal to their party. The head of Louisiana’s returning board, James Madison Wells, tried to sell the state’s electoral votes locally at a price of $200,000 for each Republican board member, but both parties rejected the corrupt deal. He then sent his associate, Colonel John T. Pickett, to Congressman Abram Hewitt, chairman of the Democratic party, with an offer to sell the votes for $1,000,000. Hewitt and Tilden refused the offer. However, Tilden’s nephew, Colonel William Pelton, did negotiate with Wells and with Republicans in Florida in an attempt to buy an Electoral College victory for his uncle, allegedly without the nominee’s knowledge, even though he lived in his bachelor-uncle’s house. The negotiations lasted too long to produce results, except for a series of incriminating coded telegrams, which were later used as evidence in a Congressional investigation in 1878.
See also Gore Vidal's book, "1876" for fuller development of this recurring anti-democratic practice.