Report — From the November 2012 issue

How to Rig an Election

The G.O.P. aims to paint the country red

It was a hot summer in 1932 when Louisiana senator Huey “Kingfish” Long arranged to rig the vote on a number of amendments to his state’s constitution that would be advantageous to his financial interests. Long was no stranger to rigged votes. This time around, however, the fix delivered by his machine was blatant and sloppy: his favored amendments won unanimously in sixteen New Orleans precincts and garnered identical vote totals in twenty-eight others.

Eugene Stanley, the incorruptible district attorney for Orleans Parish, presented evidence of fraud to a grand jury. Louisiana’s attorney general, the less morally encumbered Gaston Porterie, stepped in to sabotage the case for Long. Nonetheless, two judges demanded a recount, at which point Governor O. K. Allen obliged Long by declaring martial law. Intimidated jurors found themselves sorting ballots under the supervision of National Guardsmen, who stood by to “protect” them with machine guns.

When this effort failed, another grand jury was convened. Their eventual finding of a massive conspiracy led to the indictment of 513 New Orleans election officials. Once again, Long used his famous powers of persuasion. At his behest, the Louisiana legislature modified the state’s election law, giving ex post facto protection to the defendants. Election rigging, Long might have quipped, had become downright exhausting. But it worked.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/nickzedd Nick Zedd

    Another rigged presidential election is imminent and mainstream media is dropping the ball again. Pathetic.

  • Tosheba

    Oh, please, DemocRATS will cheat and blame the GOP.

    • Nathan

      Glad you took the time to refute the staggering number of charges raised in this piece. My faith is restored.

    • axzaxis

      The article is about voting right? Tosheba should check out his up and down votes on this one. The results are in! You Suck!

    • NathanBetzen

      Honestly, who cares if Democrats blame the GOP? Why not take the ability to blame out of the equation and make the machines, the software, and the resulting ballots verifiable? Even if this entire article is crazy person talk, making it possible for the American public trust our own ballots certainly seems like the right thing to do.

      • Trent

        Beautifully stated. The article is certainly claiming Republican responsibility for the issue, so I get the outcries, but the solution has nothing to do with party affiliation. Any American with voting power should have an interest in increasing the transparency of our elections.

  • Will Wright

    Good story, but this is far from being the first documented story of the problem. What is more concerning to me is that there’s no mention of previous work — off the top of my head, Greg Palast’s “Armed Madhouse” describes vote irregularities and vote stealing in 2000 and 2004, and the story doesn’t even mention it. Palast has another couple of books out on the same topic. And he’s just one writer of many looking at the problem. I hate to say it, but the democracy touted by the US and the one that actually exists in that country are two very different things. The experiment that is the US of A came precariously close to ending in 2008, but it is no less threatened by the badly broken nature of US democracy at the electoral, legislative, and executive levels.

  • http://www.facebook.com/seth.strong Seth Strong

    This is a solvable problem. I am a part of software development for casino games. The amount of certification and oversight of our code is intense and in this case folks are trying to make sure we’re not cheating players out of a small chance to win anything. You can have software oversight. There are standards for development AND the software could be publicly reviewable. There’s no reason why it couldn’t.

    • rapido

      And no reason not to use paper ballots, what’s the hurry?

    • http://www.facebook.com/payam.minoofar Payam Minoofar

      From the get-go, experts were saying that the gaming industry has a fantastic model for verifying every single electronic transaction with 100% reliability and accountability. The fact that so many players in electronic voting are vocal partisans may well explain why accountability has been stripped from electronic voting.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Adam-Selene/1195594590 Adam Selene

      No reason? But the kind of accountability you suggest would make it harder to rig elections. How’s that for a reason?

    • fumunda

      Yep…and we could at least get a receipt!

  • my hero

    Open source software, anybody?

  • M

    Surprising to see that there was no mention of Bain funding used to purchase voting machines to be used in what, nine states this election? Magic, isn’t it?

  • J. Archer

    These allegations, if true (they are), are tantamount to high treason and I’m not joking when I say these men should lose their lives for these crimes not to mention their obscene fortunes.

  • http://www.facebook.com/scott.mitting Scott Mitting
  • Gail Fletcher

    On Friday, Nov.2 [too late for the challenger to disseminate the truth before Election Day] I received a mailer from the local Republican Committee that was so putrid I will never vote for any Republican, ever again. The smear campaign against the challenger perpetrated by the appointed incumbent was the most baseless, defamatory, foul and egregious I

  • Rain,ADustBowlStory

    As was pointed out on Chris Hayes’ show last weekend, one of the effects of Citizens United has been not so much in the realm of direct contributions to campaigns but more in restricting our choice of candidates to those who are bankrolled with corporate money in the beginning.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mishavolf Misha Volf
  • Rand Haerdt

    Retaining the benefit of technological & eletronic voting can be balanced with fair and open transparency. The solution is to make the process COMPLETELY transparent. Here’s some initial ideas:
    - give voters receipts for their votes, which can be used to tally votes later and also be used as election memorabilia. voters who vote and hold a receipt may be incentivized with tax breaks or other discounts by vendors who choose to participate in an open voting campaign sponsored by local / state / federal governments.
    - publish all voting data on a website with the highest levels of security, allow media channels (TV, magazines, newspapers, internet portals) access to this information to maintain an active oversight of voter headcount and elections unfolding.
    - create local / state / federal agencies and institutions for democratic electioneering (engineering election systems). This must be a positive body that seeks to remove all avenues of corruption and maintain careful, democratic oversight of the process.
    - all of these avenues must be overseen rigorously by citizens to maintain democracy. After all, democracy can be maintained, but it takes vigilance and dedication.

  • http://www.facebook.com/chuck.kollars Chuck Kollars

    It’s quite clear that we in the U.S. have a problem, and also that hardly anybody is paying any attention to it. That was already clear many years ago, and here yet one more voice joins the chorus. It’s a strong and passionate voice …but passion’s no substitute for analysis (or historical context:-). WHY is nobody paying any attention, WHY don’t top party leaders speak out against trickery, and WHAT concrete steps can we take?

  • Insomniac68

    After this country’s well-documented history of corrupt city bosses who controlled every aspect of the political process and of wholesale election day cheating by Democrats throughout the nation, Collier comes up with “research” to show that the real culprits are Republicans who suppress the vote and change the results via new voting technology. Not one allegation of Republican cheating in this article has been proved to be true, but how useful it is to throw the claim out there, to suggest that because some owners of technology companies are Republicans that vote rigging is not only possible, but likely.

    Who was it who pushed unceasingly for the new voting machines we’re now stuck with? Democrats. Look back at all the letters to the editors and the public forums during the pre-HAVA days. Who was it who was demanding the change? Democrats. The charge that Republicans, who I’m sorry to admit are positively backward in the technology department, are now responsible for rigging elections on the new machines is ludicrous. As a few respondents said, oversight, accountability and transparency of these new systems are easy to accomplish. In New York I believe our system has achieved that now.

    Perhaps this piece was put out before Election Day so that Florida 2000-style protests could be waged if Obama lost. After all, the projected low turnout of Democrats was widely seen as a probable cause for a defeat. But that’s not what happened, is it? Perhaps, though, I really ought to consider vote rigging — by Democrats.

  • http://twitter.com/vermiliondawn vermiliondawn
    • http://twitter.com/vermiliondawn vermiliondawn

      The full un-aired 2006 interview with Stephen Spoonamore by former ABC News Producer Rebecca Abrahams: In this interview Spoonamore discusses the shortcomings of Diebold electronic voting machines, the ease with which they can be corrupted and irreglarities in the 2004 Presidential Election.

  • arguethefacts

    In the last day or two Anonymous has said they hacked into voting machines and found rigged software which they nullified. Could this be why Karl Rove was SO certain Ohio was going to go for Romney? His meltdown on Fox News consisted of him saying that it was too early to call Ohio. He was certain it would flip for Romney. Is this why some Republicans were predicting an Electoral Landslide for Romney of 350+ votes? They seemed so smug and certain.

    Do we owe the election to Anonymous disabling the voter flipping software? If so the Republicans can’t complain about it without agreeing that it exists. They are stuck with the election that they were so certain would be Romney’s.

  • Marilyn Noad

    Secret skullduggery is not even necessary these days such is the boldness of the attempts by the GOP to “rig elections”. They simply pass laws in GOP run states by changing the way the electoral votes are allocated.

  • libertyandtyranny

    We need paper ballots, period. And the country, for the most part, leaned conservative up until celebrity globalist Obama pretended to unite the country based on the color of his melanin pigment. Now we are more divided than ever. We must choose sides, because the stakes are so much higher- 16 TRILLION in debt.

  • Spectate Swamp

    Start by rigging the debate forums with planted questions and a full slate of candidates that you want. That lessens the likelyhood of an honest candidate getting elected

  • John Wren

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