On Rigging Elections

There’s presently a lot of discussion about rigging elections, and so I’d like to make a few things clear. I’ll do that with a few, brief points and stories:

#1: Every significant election involves vote rigging. The incentives and the emotions assure it. The local election judge knows what he or she can get away with, and 1 of x times, he or she will. That’s just the nature of the beast, and no faction is immune to it.

#2: Political organizations always steal or add votes. Whether it’s stuffing a ballot box, tossing away votes from the precinct that votes for the opponent, or a thousand variants, this happens all the time. Again, the incentives are all for it, as is the arrogance of party: We’re the righteous ones and our opponents are crazy, ignorant and dangerous.

#3: Big operators rig elections with superior assets. The big players tend to develop manipulation strategies like Google campaigns or psycholinguistic-based TV adds (bending the masses to their will), but they play dirty too. Not only do they have financial motives (favorable laws are immensely profitable), but they love the feeling of owning politicians.


Again, briefly, I want to give you a couple of stories.

#1: LBJ and Box 13. The photo above shows Lyndon Johnson (later president of the United States and a thoroughly despicable human being) with his election rigging pals in 1948. This was the election that put Johnson into power, and while it was very close, he was losing.

And so, Johnson and his pals “found” a box of 202 ballots from Precinct 13. 200 of them were for Johnson, winning him the election. The cheated opponent fought, of course, but Johnson prevailed. (Yes, Virginia, judges can be bribed too.)

#2: Harold Washington in Chicago. Harold Washington was the first black mayor of Chicago, and the Democratic party in Chicago fought to keep him out. On the day of the crucial election (in one-party Chicago that’s the primary election), the train system on the heavily-black south side experienced a “surprise outage” and the system was inoperable, making it very hard for Washington’s core constituency to get to the polls.

It happened that the source of the outage was an electrician who worked for me. He was a ward committeeman, and took every election day off, to “help” in whatever way was required. A couple of days later he told me the full story, including details on the switches he disconnected.

For what it’s worth, this act of vote rigging was only partly race-driven. If Washington had been white, they still would have run dirty tricks against him, though probably not so openly. I was freakishly young to be supervising electricians and didn’t know what to do about this (I wrote it off to “government is evil”), but it was reckless of them to allow someone like me to know details.

And Now

My personal stories (and I have others) are from a few decades back, but these things are still going on.

In general, the American left is better at this than the American right: The right believes more in personal righteousness and the left in collective righteousness; that restrains Red stealing. That said, some on both sides will steal votes.

I hesitate to say anything about politics most of the time (I still go back to “government is evil”), but since the upcoming election may involve claims of vote rigging that lead to riots, looting and murder, I think I should address this briefly:

While there will be more Red stealing in some places and more Blue stealing in others, the Blues will steal more votes overall. Most vote rigging occurs in big cities, and nearly all of those have been under Blue control for decades. Long-running political machines are much, much better at thieving than rural, Red state amateurs.

Bear in mind also that TV news, as well as the Google complex, are joined at the hip with the Blues, and would be regardless of who the Red candidate was. “Respected journalists” are not be believed.


Paul Rosenberg