1960 Presidential Election in Chicago
In 1960, the presidential election was between young Democratic Senator John F. Kennedy and the Vice-President of the outgoing administration, Richard Nixon. The race was close, divisive and often dirty. Although there was little mud-slinging done by the two candidates, who maintained at least a semblance of decorum, their campaigns and supporters were less concerned with professional courtesy and polite discourse.
Following Kennedy’s narrow victory accusations of voter fraud were immediate and widespread, particularly in Texas – where Kennedy’s running mate Lyndon Johnson had a long history of questionable political practices – and in Chicago, home of the Daley Democratic political machine.
In Chicago alone, Kennedy eventually carried by a margin of more than 450,000 votes, enough that the New York Herald-Tribune (which was pro-Nixon) “…claimed to have discovered sufficient evidence of vote fraud to prove that the state was stolen for Kennedy.”
Subsequent rumors that the election was stolen on Kennedy’s behalf by organized crime figures such as Sam Giancana have long been repeated and never proven, often linked to rumors of Joseph Kennedy maintaining ties to the mob since his own bootlegging days. Joseph Kennedy Sr. has never been evidentially linked to either bootlegging or the mob, but that has done nothing to stop the rumors.
What has been established evidentially is the power of the Cook County Democratic Party – then run by Richard Daley – and its ability to get out the vote and to alter its results. Daley didn’t release the results of the Chicago area balloting until late morning of the following day, after the number of votes needed to overcome the results of the voting in the rest of the state was known.
New York Herald-Tribune reporter Earl Mazo later investigated in Chicago using voter registration rolls and found registered names on the rolls of people who had voted which matched names found on tombstones in Chicago cemeteries. Daley later responded to the accusations of voter fraud by accusing several Republican counties in the southern part of the state of doing the same thing for Nixon. These accusations were found by the same reporter to have been true, but on a lesser scale than what had occurred in Chicago. How the people of Illinois actually voted in 1960 will likely never be known.