Opinion | Find out how to Steal an Election

Stealing elections typically began with the U.S. Postal Service — central to this election as nicely. In a nation that was over 80 p.c rural, publish workplaces had been a choke level for political information. However they had been run by deeply partisan postmasters, appointed by the very congressmen they’d assist elect, they usually steadily “misplaced” the opposition’s newspapers or correspondences. And since events privately printed their very own ballots in these days, publish workplaces and newspaper publishers may purchase up all of the paper on the town, making it troublesome for rivals to get sufficient tickets. Even the telegraph wires couldn’t be trusted: Within the contested presidential election of 1876, Western Union operators despatched Democratic politicians’ personal messages straight to Republican headquarters.

The tips grew extra confrontational on Election Day itself. Most states lacked voter registration methods, so partisans hung across the polls, difficult unlawful voters — on account of age, race or residency — and intimidating authorized ones they believed would vote for the rival ticket. Challenges could possibly be oddly intimate, just like the aged Democrat in Civil Struggle-torn Missouri who was threatened by a younger man who “I’ve identified ever since he was a toddler.” They might additionally result in atrocious brutality. Within the South on the finish of Reconstruction, white Democratic rifle golf equipment “policed” the polls. They invented the time period “bulldoze” in 1876 to explain using a “dose” of the bullwhip to terrorize African-American voters.

In contrast to as we speak, there really was widespread fraud in casting ballots, what Rudyard Kipling referred to as the uniquely American “artwork of shopping for up votes retail.” A glass of lager, $5 or a pork chop sandwich may win over a decisive minority, as much as 10 p.c in some states. A Norwegian immigrant in Minneapolis was struck by how open this unlawful conduct was, typically “thought of intelligent and was not hid.” However an odd code dominated this illicit exercise. Jane Addams described the implications for an unscrupulous man who bought his vote to each events. He was punished with a Chicago-style tar-and-feathering, his head held underneath a blasting fireplace hydrant on a chilly November day.

Wholesale fraud trumped shopping for votes retail. In huge cities and new settlements the place many citizens had been strangers, events practiced what grew to become generally known as “colonizing”: filling a district with non permanent voters. Mid-Atlantic cities noticed an election season shell recreation, with Philadelphians despatched to vote in Manhattan and New Yorkers swinging Baltimore elections. Within the South, elections had been typically stolen within the reverse method. White Democrats conspired to win north Florida in 1876 by sending a big crew of Republican African-American railroad staff to work in Alabama. Their practice mysteriously broke down there, stranding them on Election Day.

Poll fraud was even simpler than transferring males round, at a time when voters forged a galaxy of paper tickets. There have been “tissue ballots,” so skinny {that a} voter may forged ten folded as much as appear to be a single vote, or “tapeworm ballots,” lengthy and thin to stop dissenters from “scratching” in names of candidates not accredited by the get together. When events started to color-code ballots, some used the opposition’s chosen coloration to idiot illiterates. Amongst election thieves, “every body thought it was a pretty sharp trick.”

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