There was real voting fraud in Chicago in the old daysRoundup
tags: election 2016, Voter Fraud
The legend was borne out of some truth.
“Once we got beyond the old days of paper ballots, which had numerous ways of cheating, and we got to the old-fashioned machines where you pulled down the lever, the bottom line was that they could steal by my calculations about 100,000 votes in the city. The cheating did affect one or two major races.”
The speaker is my friend Don Rose, the legendary liberal Chicago campaign consultant. If anyone knows how election cheating really worked in Chicago, it’s Don, who had a hand in just about every campaign fighting Daley’s corrupt Cook County Democratic machine since the 1940s. He was kind enough to run down for me how the old tricks operated. The most prevalent, he said, was illegal assistance, where an election judge pulled the lever for hordes of supposedly debilitated, but actually able-bodied, voters. The rule that was supposed to prevent this particular practice required the presence of both Republican and Democratic election judges at each polling station. But “you have to remember that in a tremendous number of precincts, usually in the black neighborhoods, the alleged Republican judges were really Democrats.”
There was mechanical tampering: “Many’s the time,” says Don, working as a poll watcher on the morning of an election, “that I opened up a machine and there were votes already registered.” And a trick using rubber bands: when a voter tried to pull down one of the smaller levers to register Republican exceptions to a straight Democratic ticket, “the lever bounded up.” There was vote buying, with “everything from turkeys to nylon hose.” Also threats to throw dissident voters out of their apartments: “Everyone who’s in public housing is violating some rule.” And this simple expedient: “the false count, where the so-called Republican judges and Democratic judges, they just called in the wrong totals downtown.” In one instance he’s aware of, that call downtown happened at gunpoint.
It was then, and only then, that Don came to the rarest scam: voter impersonation, including the infamous “cemetery vote.” That’s the stuff Republicans are most terrified of now—practically the only one you hear about. Don says it never was all that common—“10 or 15 percent of the total steal.”
So in Cook County, Illinois, back in the day, crooked elections were not just a Republican fantasy: they were real. Just not, Don thinks, a factor in the 1960 presidential election. “It was my understanding that when the Republicans finally put their count in, Daley gave them a legitimate count. I would say, personally, I can’t prove it, that Kennedy actually won Illinois narrowly.”
And if you know Chicago politics, and the 1960 elections, that’s not surprising. Kennedy won the black vote overwhelmingly, thanks to his last-minute intervention decrying the incarceration of Martin Luther King Jr. for an Atlanta department store sit-in, advertised via millions of flyersdistributed in black churches the Sunday before the election. So there wouldn’t have been many Republican votes in the suspect precincts to steal. Any that were would likely have been canceled out anyway, according to an ancient formula in Illinois statewide politics: for every dead person who votes Democrat in Chicago, a cow votes Republican downstate. ...