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Washington voters choose Democrats Woodrow Wilson for president and Ernest Lister for governor on November 7, 1916.

HistoryLink.org Essay 5597 : Printer-Friendly Format

On November 7, 1916, Washington voters choose Democratic incumbents Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924) for president and Ernest Lister (1870-1919) for governor, but give most other offices to Republicans. Ballot measures that would discriminate against workers and that oppose municipal ownership are decisively defeated.

Republicans Claim Victory Before Defeat

World War I had consumed Europe for two years and U.S. involvement was hotly debated. Wilson defeated Republican Charles Evans Hughes (1862-1948) with the slogan, "He kept us out of war" (Britannica). For several hours, Republicans claimed victory until returns from west of the Mississippi River gave the win to Wilson. Republicans controlled Congress however.

Democratic Governor Edward Lister defeated former Republican Governor Henry McBride (1856-1937) and Republican Miles Poindexter beat Democrat George Turner for U.S. Senator. Republican Louis F. Hart (1862-1929) was elected Lieutenant Governor. Republican William E. Humphrey was returned to Congress from the First District (King and Kitsap Counties).

Voters Defeat Anti-Progressive Ballot Measures

A total of 10 ballot measures confronted voters, most of which if passed would have discriminated against working people. Most of the measures had been passed by the legislature to overturn earlier progressive reforms. Referendum 3 would have required that anyone wishing to sign an initiative petition would have to do so at a registration office (if it was open) and Referendum 4 required that the petition be signed only in the presence of a registration officer (if he was present). A constitutional amendment would have placed a property test on voting. Referendum 6 would have prohibited picketing by workers.

Initiative 24 would have allowed the serving of liquor in hotel dining rooms (Washington was a dry state and most working people did not frequent hotel dining rooms). Legislative actions sought to restrict the ability of municipalities to own and operate utilities and port facilities.

The election took place two days after the Everett Massacre -- a violent confrontation between members of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) from Seattle and sheriff's deputies. Voters resoundingly defeated all the ballot measures.

Votes for presidential electors were approximately as follows:

  • Democrat - 183,100
  • Republican - 166,500
  • Prohibition - 6,800
  • Socialist - 22,500
  • Socialist Labor - 700
Results of other races were as follows:
  • Ernest Lister (D) - 181,645
  • Henry McBride (R) - 167,809
  • L.E. Katterfeld (Socialist) - 21,167
    U.S. Senator
  • Miles Poindexter (R) - 202,287
  • George Turner (D) - 135,339
  • Bruce Rogers (Socialist) - 21,709

    Ballot Measures
  • Referendum 3: Petitions
     Yes - 62,117 No - 196,363
  • Referendum 4: Petitions
     Yes - 63,646 No - 193,686
  • Referendum 6: Anti-Picketing
     Yes - 85,672 No - 183,042
  • Initiative 24: Liquor in hotels
     Yes - 98,843 No - 245,399

Richard C. Berner, Seattle 1900-1920: From Boomtown, Urban Turbulence, to Restoration (Seattle: Charles Press, 1991), 220-222; Edgar I. Stewart, Washington: Northwest Frontier Vol. II (New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Co., 1957), 222-224; "Woodrow Wilson," Britannica CD 2000 Deluxe Edition, 1994-2000, Washington Secretary of State, Abstract of Votes polled in the State of Washington at the General Election, November 7, 1916, (Olympia: Secretary of State, 1916).

Travel through time (chronological order):
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President Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924), 1912
Courtesy Library of Congress

Ernest Lister (1870-1919), 1912
Courtesy Washington State Archives

Governor Lister (center) inspects progress on building Chuckanut Drive, near Bellingham, 1915
Courtesy WSDOT

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