Deliver the Vote: A History of Election Fraud, an American Political Tradition -- 1742-2004

In This Review

Deliver the Vote: A History of Election Fraud, an American Political Tradition -- 1742-2004

By Tracy Campbell
Carroll & Graf, 2005
448 pp. $26.00
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This uneven but important book is less a history of election fraud in the United States than a collection of anecdotal reports. A more systematic treatment of the subject is badly needed, but until it appears, Campbell's book will at least introduce readers to the perennial importance of fraud in U.S. politics. Election fraud comes in three forms -- the suppression of votes, the inflation of votes, and manipulation of the count -- and all three are flourishing today. African Americans have been the targets of the most violent and systematic efforts at vote suppression: the organized terror and lynching campaigns that ultimately disenfranchised the vast majority of blacks in the post-Reconstruction South. Paradoxically, as residents of big cities -- where urban political machines have made voting early and often a tradition, the dead regularly rise on election night as party activists, and "vote brokers" spread "walking around money" through the streets -- blacks today may be disproportionately victims of vote inflation as well. Once the vote, fraudulent or not, has come in, there is always the question of counting. Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, and Lyndon Johnson are among the presidents whose careers were significantly advanced by vote fraud, and all three forms of fraud were well represented in the 2000 Florida presidential vote. Campbell is not optimistic that this well-entrenched tradition will be rooted out anytime soon and disturbingly notes that contemporary trends toward more easily obtained absentee ballots, Internet voting, computerized voting machines, and voting by mail could open the door to fraud on a massive scale.