It is important to realize that our country was founded not as a democracy but as a Republic. This means are a representative democracy, where rights and powers are limited – not universal – and defined by the Constitution. Our Founding Fathers clearly wanted to forestall the dangers of democracy well known since Plato (viz. Republic). James Madison’s Federalist 10, entitled “The Utility of the Union as a Safeguard Against Domestic Faction and Insurrection” is also instructive on the subject, as it underscores the importance of electoral system and dangers of factions swaying elections.
One of the advantages of a republic is that there is little room for voter fraud. Originally, elections in the American Colonies, and well until the 1820s, were limited to property-owning white men and their eldest sons. Limited suffrage was intended to prevent mob rule. Before 1776, eligibility to vote and voting laws varied from state-to-state. Race, gender, even religious restrictions were not uncommon. Militia and army service as well as property ownership and payment of taxes became preconditions to vote during the 1790s. During this time, many states eliminated religious conditions and Massachusetts, New York, Vermont, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and North Carolina permitted African American men to vote.
This expansion of suffrage was rather slow at this time and did not come to the front until the 1820s and 30s. Westward expansion and our “moving frontier” led to the creation of new states, which offered broader voting rights, in order to attract settlers. We can see how the idea of “open borders” and equally open and broad voting rights goes back in our history – as early as 1816 when Indiana passed its voting laws.
The fact that new settlers acquired their voting rights with their property produced a lot of new ground to till by the parties. Expansion in land and vote caused increasing party rivalry, which in turn contributed to voter proselytizing. Fertile soil for voter fraud was being laid.
Expanded suffrage increased the weight on the scales of representative democratic Republic in favor of (evil, Platonic) democracy. Two other phenomena followed suit – mass immigration, and industrialization – and we may argue that had these factors been present in the pre-Jacksonian America, even Democrats (who were always more apt at proselytizing the common folk for votes) would have been more reluctant to grant broad suffrage privileges.
The advancement of new technologies, such as telegraph and steam-powered printing press, new kind of “mass politics” took off: that of catchy slogans, newspaper smears, rallies, parades and barbeques where free food and alcohol were served… What is more, by 1830, the secret ballot was deemed undemocratic and voting became public, by acclamation or raising hands or even placing a musket ball into the particular party’s receptacle (the word “ballot” derives from Italian “ballotta” – meaning a small ball). Sometimes even the ancient Greek method was used, substituting stones for musket balls.
While paper ballot dates back to Rome, 139 BC, it was not widespread – precisely because suffrage had been limited and “voting papers” (if any) supplied by the voter. Paper ballot became common as the steam-press took off and voting became more universal. Even then, neither the federal government nor the states “issued” ballots. A voter simply took a newspaper cutout or some other pre-printed piece of paper to the voting site to vote. Parties began to pre-print their ballots on a distinctly colored paper at this time and voting was public, at a public place, where the voter was required to place his ballot into a transparent glass jar. Everyone could see how everyone else voted.
Naturally, this led to even more severe proselytizing and partisan politics. Violence and even murder at polling sites were not uncommon during the 1840-60s. Party officials would hire tough youngsters called “shoulder hitters” to physically and verbally intimidate voters. Threats of firing family members (e.g. policemen, firemen, etc.) on public payroll were common. Riots were also frequent. We may wonder whether the much-touted voter turnout, which was 80% in 1840 and never dropped below 70% throughout the nineteenth century, was not actually a natural democratic development, but a fraudulently and tyrannically enforced precondition to preserve one’s living…
Hand-in-hand with violence, corruption and fraud became rampant. 19th century elections were so corrupt that it was often impossible to keep track of who vote and who did not vote. Men (colloquially referred to as “repeaters”) would come to vote in the morning with a full beard, half-shaven at noon, and fully shaven in the evening… to vote 3 times. People were often paid to vote in more than one location.
Today, we pause at the votes cast by the dead. However, old Boston’s saying “The elections ain’t over till all the votes from St. Augustine’s Cemetery are counted” tells us that “dead vote” is also nothing new under the Sun. Where this was not possible to secure the results, elections were determined not by who won the majority of votes, but by who controlled the counting process.
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich recently mentioned the Tammany Hall in connection with the Clintons’ corrupt voting machine. This den of corruption started with Aaron Burr and Dewitt Clinton’s system of spoils and perks, flourished under Tweed in the 1850s, and is coming back to force with Clinton’s “democracy” today. Tweed’s system of corruption included not only the ballot box, but also the courts, legislature and almost the entire executive. One may pause to wonder whether it took the Civil War to “purify” American politics… and what will it take today?!
To say that Tammany Hall Democratic Party tactics survive and flourish today is a valid observation. Some of these machinations more direct and obvious than others, e.g. Black Panthers at election booths in 2008. Others are more subliminal and not as well known: in 2004, in Wisconsin and elsewhere voters allegedly received flyers that said, “If you already voted in any election this year, you can’t vote in the Presidential Election,” implying that those who had voted in earlier primary elections were ineligible to vote. Other flyers said: “If anybody in your family has ever been found guilty of anything you can’t vote in the Presidential Election. If you violate any of these laws, you can get 10 years in prison and your children will be taken away from you.”
The US Attorney in Chicago estimated that the party machine “manufactured” at least 100,000 extra votes in an attempt to defeat Republican gubernatorial candidate James Thompson in 1982. Sixty-three people were convicted of election fraud. Irregular votes, ballot stuffing, illegals’ voting and other practices are widespread.
Let us recall that Dem John Kerry won Wisconsin’s electoral votes – but no-one noticed that the ballots cast exceeded the number of voters legally entitled to vote by more than 4,500 votes. ACORN was heavily involved in the process. Eighteen poll officials had felony records, eight of them were hired and paid by ACORN. ACORN received $40 million of US taxpayers’ money before it declared bankruptcy in 2010! ACORN still operates in Mexico, Peru, Argentina, even Canada. I would not be surprised if their headquarters were in Venezuela…
Many of these uncouth taxpayer funded organizations go back to Nixon’s administration (e.g. Federal Government funded ACTION). Others were created by communists who defrauded other nations, such as Soros. Still others operate as legitimate “lobbying groups” funding the Clinton Machine with foreign contributions (Podesta Group). The octopus of corruption and voter fraud which embraces our country today is far more expansive and widespread than any mass media or public talking heads dare admit.