These 10 High Stakes Elections in America Were Bought, Rigged, or Stolen
These 10 High Stakes Elections in America Were Bought, Rigged, or Stolen

These 10 High Stakes Elections in America Were Bought, Rigged, or Stolen

Larry Holzwarth - December 10, 2017

These 10 High Stakes Elections in America Were Bought, Rigged, or Stolen
George Washington in the uniform of the Virginia militia, as he appeared in the 1750s. Wikipedia

George Washington’s election to the Virginia House of Burgesses in 1758

As noted earlier, George Washington won the office of the presidency unopposed, with unanimous support in the Electoral College, a feat he accomplished twice. But it wasn’t so easy in the early days of his political career, before he led a revolution and achieved a reputation of integrity which remains unrivaled. Washington’s first political forays were in local politics, always rough and tumble, and in those days a candidate for elected office was expected to provide liquid refreshment to voters if he wanted the support of their votes.

In his first attempt at election to the Virginia Burgesses, Washington was appalled at the practice of providing drink to voters, and he made his opinion known. As a 24-year-old candidate, he protested, refused to serve alcohol at the polls, and lost by a whopping 271 to 40. As he would in other defeats then still in his future, he learned from the experience.

In 1758, with his reputation enhanced due to his military experiences, Washington ran again for the Burgesses. This time his campaign expenses included the purchase of over 144 gallons (some sources say 160) of beverages which included hard cider, rum, beer, and a popular fortified wine called Madeira. In this campaign Washington won office with 331 votes, averaging a bit less than a half-gallon of drink per vote.

At that, he was concerned that he wasn’t spending enough to lubricate the sensibilities of potential supporters. He wrote of his concern to his close friend holding the position now known as campaign manager wondering if he had spent enough, as he waited for the results to be tallied. Alcohol and its influence on voters were used to buy support at the polls for decades, and laws still exist restricting the sale of alcoholic beverages while polls are open in many states.

They began in 1811, when Maryland passed a law which prohibited candidates from buying drinks for voters on Election Day. Candidates have ever since sought means to circumvent the law, and every other subsequent law (such as donation limits), to ensure the sanctity of the vote is inviolate.

These 10 High Stakes Elections in America Were Bought, Rigged, or Stolen
Although many others challenged the results in 2004, Democratic candidate John Kerry did not. Wikipedia

Presidential Election of 2004

In 2004, Republican George W. Bush and his running mate Dick Cheney won reelection by defeating Democrat John Kerry and John Edwards. Bush carried 31 states in the popular vote, leading to a total of 286 electoral votes, sixteen more than he needed to win. After the controversy over the preceding presidential election, the incumbent president needed a clear-cut victory and his supporters rapidly claimed the election was the mandate he needed to confirm his presidency.

Within days of the votes being counted, numerous cries of foul arose. The Kerry campaign did not challenge the election results, but Green Party candidate David Cobb and Libertarian Party candidate Michael Badnarik called for and received a recount in Ohio, which did not alter the results. In 2007 two elections officials in Ohio were convicted of rigging the 2004 recount and both were sentenced to 18-month terms.

Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, who had also served in the Bush Reelection Campaign, was castigated by a Judiciary Committee Report for failing to comply with his duties in relation to investigating voter fraud and other irregularities. Blackwell also refused to allow international observers in Ohio, claiming that Ohio law precluded them.

More than 30% of all votes in the 2004 election were cast on Direct Recording Electronic machines, which did not retain paper records of the votes. At the time there was not an individual federal agency responsible for regulation of the voting machine industry.

In the 2004 election, George W. Bush won the popular vote with the smallest margin of victory ever recorded by an incumbent president. Investigations into irregularities in precincts where electronic ballots replaced paper continued well into his second administration in several states, including California, Ohio and Florida, and despite numerous questions being raised in several precincts, the election was never seriously challenged.

These 10 High Stakes Elections in America Were Bought, Rigged, or Stolen
In 2000 Americans learned what chads were. They also learned that chads could hang, be dimpled, be pregnant, and swing. US News

Presidential Election of 2000

This is the big one in recent times, the election which still causes arguments among partisans on each side. To those who supported George W. Bush, the election was clearly open and aboveboard, certified by the Supreme Court. To those who supported Al Gore, the election was clearly stolen by the Republicans in Florida, an argument which was fortified when additional questions arose following Bush’s reelection on other states.

It was the election in which the nation learned that the little tab of cardboard which is pushed through a punch card to signify a choice has a name. Gore supporters often lament that the Supreme Court awarded the presidency to his opponent, strictly speaking, that is incorrect, although the Supreme Court did end the recount in Florida which effectively limited Gore’s legal challenge to the result, and he conceded a second time.

The 2000 presidential election was the closest in US history, with Gore winning the popular vote by over 500,000 votes although Bush prevailed in the Electoral College by one vote. Numerous recounts over time by analysts have reached differing opinions on what the result would have been had the Supreme Court allowed the hand count requested by Gore to have been completed.

Because of the difficulties encountered during the election, in which both sides still claim they really won years after the two Bush administrations, several efforts were initiated to ensure that the discrepancies encountered in the 2000 election would not recur.

One such effort was the passing of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) which required states to upgrade voting systems and provided financial assistance for them to do so by purchasing or upgrading electronic voting and vote recording systems. Many of these systems installed by the states led to perceived discrepancies, some still unresolved, which occurred in the next presidential election in 2004.