Chicago, where I grew up and lived for 26 years, has been the butt of jokes about corruption and election fraud. This behavior has seeped across the border at times into Indiana. For example 31 people were convicted for voter fraud in the 2003 East Chicago (Indiana) Democratic mayoral primary. At the very least, this year the Illinois Democratic Party and election apparatus has become the butt of jokes. Thirty-five counties sent absentee ballots late to military voters, including the county with the largest military vote. (incidentally, Mark Kirk, the Republican candidate for Senate is a Navy Reserves vet) The Illinois Democratic Campaign Committee, chaired by Senator Dick Durbin, sent out nearly 1,000,000 absentee ballot applications late, with return addresses to the state party. A similar operation in Bucks County, PA has resulted in all the absentee ballots to be impounded.
The upshot of the screw-up by the Democratic party and the FOIA request by the Giannoulias campaign could push us into a recount, recanvass, or substantial delays. So while we wait for the results, I thought it might be helpful to review the 1982 and 2006 elections.
As Hans von Spakovsky noted in a 2008 Heritage Foundation research paper, this has sometimes been a good reason. In this paper, von Spakovsky reviewed media reports and court records from the 1982 election and recount. That year incumbent Republican Governor James Thompson was polling at a 15-point lead, but won by only 6,000 votes. Adlai Stevenson, the Democratic candidate alleged voter fraud downstate and filed suit. The FBI investigated those and charges that it occurred in Chicago.
What particularly struck FBI agent Ernest Locker was how routine vote fraud was for the pre cinct captains, election judges, poll watchers, and political party workers he interviewed. They had been taught how to steal votes (and elections) by their predecessors, who had in turn been taught by their predecessors. Based on his investigation, Locker came to believe the claims, hotly debated among historians, that Mayor Daley threw the 1960 presidential election for John Kennedy with massive ballot stuffing in Chicago. This type of voter fraud, stated Locker, “was an accepted way of life in Chicago.”
Von Spakovsky’s quote of the FBI agent is important. If ballot stuffing in Chicago is an “accepted way of life”, it may be happening today. So why do I raise this? Because it could happen again. Like 1982, the Dems started with legal challenges. This time, they have filed FOIA requests with all the county Boards of Elections.
Working with some friends back home in Chicago, I got results from the 2006 election. The table at the right contains some results from Ward 29. Six precincts recorded vote totals with more votes than registered voters. Now, Rod Blagojevich, the incumbent Democratic governor won re-election by 10 points, with another 10 points going to a Green Party candidate, Rich Whitney. (note that Mr. Whitney is a candidate this year also. His case has become somewhat famous for ballots being printed in predominantly African-American precincts with the name “Rich Whitey”)
With 24% more ballots cast than registered voters in the 14th precinct, it is hard to come up with an explanation other than stuffed ballots. At the time of this election, the Alderman was Isaac Carothers. He has since resigned and plead guilty to federal corruption charges. Von Spakovsky summarized the FBI agent as saying, “[t]hey had been taught how to steal votes (and elections) by their predecessors, who had in turn been taught by their predecessors.” In the case of Carothers, he was told to win by his father William Carothers who lost re-election in 1983 and was convicted of federal corruption charges like his son. The senior Mr. Carothers was Alderman of the 28th ward at the time of the 1982 election discussed above.
Hopefully, it will be a short night in Illinois with a clear result. If it doesn’t we may learn things about Chicago that a number of people in Chicago, Springfield, and the White House find uncomfortable.