While voter fraud is not new in this nation, it seems to be gathering
steam in recent years with the absentee voting explosion, loosened
voting registration requirements and fewer controls, not to mention the
enormous incentives for successful practitioners.
A scant 87 votes changed the course of world history in 1948. Out of
one million votes cast, an 87-vote margin caused a young Texas
congressman named Lyndon Baines Johnson to become a United States
senator. What the history books neglect to tell us is that, but for
widespread vote buying and shameless ballot box stuffing in the corrupt
barrios of South Texas, LBJ would not have become a senator, then vice
president and ultimately president. The rest is history.
In the fall of 1948, my grandfather, J.K. Ray, was working at the San
Antonio office of the Alcohol Tax Unit when he received a phone call
from Texas Ranger Frank Hamer. My grandfather and Hamer had worked on
the infamous Bonnie and Clyde case years earlier and trusted each other
My grandfather joined Hamer on a mission that took them to Alice,
Texas, to look into reports of voter fraud that marked the famed Senate
race between former Gov. Coke Stevenson and LBJ. The corruption and
voter fraud they witnessed is well documented in Robert Caro’s award
winning biography entitled “Means of Ascent.”
When they arrived at a bank in Alice, my grandfather and Hamer found
it surrounded by armed pistoleros, thugs, and other assorted henchmen
committed to an LBJ victory. With guns brandished, Hamer and my
grandfather, who were not small men, made their way through the crowd
and into the building. They discovered men burning ballots and altering
the voter rolls. According to my grandfather, he witnessed the crux of
the scam that permitted sympathetic sheriff’s deputies and election
officials to steal the election for LBJ.
Even direct vote buying reared its ugly head that year when LBJ
allies at the government-contract dependent Brown and Root construction
firm spread a bundle of money across South Texas. To hear my
grandfather tell it, Hispanics in selected South Texas precincts were
paid $5 each for their votes.
While pages out of history like these may make for great family lore
and political intrigue, sadly, the plague of voter fraud is very much
alive and well. Indeed, it still thrives to this day.
One favorite example took place during John F. Kennedy’s pivotal
victory in the 1960 presidential primary in West Virginia. No less an
authority than former House Speaker Tip O’Neill, D-Mass., recalls that
one of Daddy Joe Kennedy’s bagmen went through West Virginia with
pockets stuffed with cash. He would visit sheriffs doling out thousands
of dollars with the promise of more money should the county end up in
Then, of course, there are the mafia-union payoffs that led to the
unprecedented ballot box stuffing in Mayor Daley’s Chicago giving JFK
his razor thin, winning margin over Nixon in 1960’s general election.
The scandal is so infamous that there is now a standard joke on the
rubber chicken circuit for candidates that goes, “I want to be buried in
Chicago so that I can stay politically active after I die.”
While motor voter programs, early voting schedules, and Internet
voting plans offer convenience for today’s busy, on-the-go voter, the
increased opportunity for fraud is undeniable. Currently, 47 states do
not require any form of identification to vote. It practically takes
an act of Congress and a blood sample to write a check these days, but
voting on Election Day requires only the utterance or mere presentation
of a name and address, any name and address will do, to cast a ballot.
To be sure, modern day election rigging takes all forms from the
absurd to the sublime.
North Carolina, for example, has been the locale for a variety of
unscrupulous games in recent years. A 1996 state senate race and a 1998
state house race actually had to be redone with special elections when
egregious irregularities could no longer be ignored. Several board of
elections supervisors have been forced to resign, fired, indicted and
even imprisoned. Just last week, a Democrat city councilman in Dunn was
indicted on 11 counts of election fraud.
Consider the 1990 U.S. Senate race between Senator Jesse Helms,
R-N.C., and Democrat Harvey Gantt. Democrat lawyers went so far as to
find a liberal, black Democrat Superior Court Judge who ordered
predominantly black precincts in Greensboro and Durham to be held open
for several hours after all the other polls closed. After church buses
bearing the words A.M.E. Zion on their sides delivered full loads of
voters, Gantt still couldn’t muster the votes he needed to win. But the
damage was done. Two Republican statewide judicial candidates narrowly
lost their races because of the illegal votes that were thrown in the
Also in North Carolina, Cleveland County election officials only
recently discovered that a 14-year-old chocolate Labrador has been on
the voter rolls for over a decade. He’s even gotten votes in his two
candidacies for mayor of Kings Mountain. Perhaps he would have fared
better had he run for dogcatcher instead.
The Democrat party of North Carolina has not quite cornered the
market on voter fraud, however. In 1990, the North Carolina legislature
made it a crime to intimidate voters after NCGOP mailed postcards to
hundreds of thousands of black voters telling them they would go to
prison if they voted improperly. Indeed, to this day, the Republican
Party of North Carolina continues the shameful tradition of the poll tax
by illegally charging for convention participation via registration
Bogus absentee ballots became commonplace in Miami’s municipal
races. In 1998, the abuses caused the Florida Court of Appeals to take
the extraordinary step of removing the Republican mayor and installing
his opponent. In this case, 46 people were indicted, 12 were
convicted. Incidents of fraud included forged signatures, voting more
than once, and fictitious names and addresses on absentee ballots.
In the 1996 race for U.S. Senate in Louisiana, Democrat Mary Landrieu
beat Republican Louis “Woody” Jenkins amidst charges of vote purchasing,
multiple voting and the casting of fraudulent votes. An investigation
revealed that “large-scale violations of federal and state election law
Attorneys for Woody Jenkins put together more than 8,000 pages of
affidavits and exhibits, alleging 7,454 illegal or “phantom” votes.
Although the effort was impressive, Jenkins still lost the election by
5,788 votes out of more than 1.7 million votes cast.
In the 1994 Maryland gubernatorial race, Republican candidate Ellen
R. Sauerbrey lost a very tight race against Democrat Parris N.
Glendening. Interestingly, Sauerbrey lost by exactly 6,000 votes. The
Sauerbrey campaign cited numerous cases of substantial voter fraud, but
fell short in their challenge.
This year’s election cycle is no different. Evidence of widespread
irregularities and abuses continues to pour in from across the nation.
Vote selling on the Internet became a hot commodity this year.
“Nader-Traders” sought to pledge their votes for Gore in competitive
states in exchange for Gore supporters casting their votes for Nader in
states Gore would almost certainly win. Voteauction.com ran into legal
troubles when it provided a forum for more than 15,000 people to sell
their votes to the highest bidder. It truly boggles the mind to imagine
that the direct purchase of voting rights is still with us today.
Milwaukee was the site of an interesting exercise in democracy. Gore
campaign volunteers were caught on video distributing packs of
cigarettes to homeless people after they’d been given rides to the
polling places. Maybe Gore is getting his tobacco allotment back after
all. The local district attorney is already conducting a criminal
investigation as a result.
Democrat backed “motor voter” legislation has given rise to the
appearance of millions of phantom voters on the voter rolls across the
country. The prohibition of periodic voter purges means dead people,
convicted felons and people who have moved pollute the pool of genuine
Consider what happened in St. Louis this past Tuesday. Taking a page
out of Harvey Gantt’s playbook, Congressman Dick Gephardt’s former chief
of staff-turned-judge pulled off a fantastic stunt. The judge kept the
polls open until midnight Tuesday night so that Democrat-heavy precincts
could turn out the vote. Voila! Senator John Ashcroft and gubernatorial
nominee Jim Talent came up a little short when all the votes were
tallied. Can litigation be far away?
In New Jersey, the pay was better for the homeless. In a stunning
new twist in electioneering, Senator-elect Jon Corzine invented a new
jobs program even before he’s sworn in. In a $2 million effort to “get
out the vote,” Corzine “hired” numerous homeless individuals and drug
In Broward County, Fla., several ballot boxes “disappeared.” Just
disappeared. Unlike 1948, the ballot boxes reappeared.
Numerous reports from across the country reveal an all out effort to
register convicts to vote. In a particularly innovative twist, even
those not yet convicted of felonies, but incarcerated and awaiting trial
dates were registered in droves.
The Immigration and Naturalization Service in Florida conveniently
established a program entitled the “Backlog Reduction Program” in which
INS examiners were given an extra 40 hours paid time off and other
bonuses for expediting the naturalization process for illegal aliens and
reaching specified numeric goals. The “goals” of the program had to be
met between Oct. 1, 1999, and Oct. 1, 2000. In Florida, a new citizen
can register to vote up to Oct. 10. Thousands of aliens, many with
criminal backgrounds, were rushed through the citizenship process and
registered to vote.
The list goes on.
The ramification of election irregularities and outright voter fraud
is an increasingly cynical voting public. As noble and lovely as it may
sound, campaign finance reform is not going to fix this part of the
system. The liberal media continues to stop the presses over the mere
mention of campaign finance reform by Bradley, McCain and Nader. They
would be well served instead, to focus the public’s attention on the
most dangerous threat to the very essence of democracy. Voter fraud
poses a far greater threat to the republic than people exercising free
speech with their own money.
We send armies of election watchers across the globe to Third World
countries and feel superior in our democratic evolution. But we would
be better served to take a close look at our own election shenanigans
lest we become a banana republic. If professional poll watcher Jimmy
Carter is really looking for election fraud, he need not buy a plane
ticket abroad. We have plenty right here at home.
Kay Daly is the vice president of the Washington office of The Signature Agency, a public relations/advertising firm headquartered in Raleigh, N.C.