Opinion Column

Rigged election claim not a stretch in U.S.

Peter Epp

(AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

(AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

The idea that an election could be rigged or stolen has little credibility in Canada, but in the United States, it carries some plausibility, given the history of American politics and what we know about voter fraud and fuzzy election results.

Lyndon Johnson in 1948 famously stole the Democratic primary in Texas and thereafter was elected to the United States Senate. According to Robert Caro's masterful four-volume biography on LBJ, Johnson's campaign purchased a large quantity of votes from a corrupt political boss, releasing just enough of the ballots to win the primary against Robert Coke Stevenson.

Johnson's subterfuge wasn't unknown in Texas politics; he had lost the same primary years earlier because his opponent was able to release additional but questionable ballots after Johnson had been declared victor.

In the 1960 presidential election, John Kennedy won the popular vote with a plurality of about 100,000 votes, even as voter fraud was being openly debated in Illinois. Such was the unsavoury reputation of Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, a Democrat powerful political boss, that some of Richard Nixon's closest supporters urged him to contest the outcome. Nixon refused, saying such action would tear the country apart.

As recently as 2000, the election between George W. Bush and Al Gore was so close that for weeks the world was drawn into the bizarre world of Florida election rules, hanging chads and court decisions.

And in the 1876 presidential election, Democrat Samuel Tilden won the popular vote but the White House was given to Republican Rutherford Hayes, following backroom deals in which the Republicans agreed to withdraw their Reconstruction policy for the former Confederacy.

President Barack Obama earlier this week chided Republican nominee Donald Trump for his claim that November's presidential election is rigged, but Trump's desperate and almost comedic claim comes from a deep well of understanding among the American people that such things can happen because they have happened. What makes his claim so ridiculous is that most polls have Hillary Clinton far ahead of him.

That said, the U.S. does have a problem with its system of elections, the regulations and fine print mostly determined by the states, and in some cases by counties. Canadians have more assurance that rigging can't and won't happen here, only because the regulations governing national elections are policed by an agency of the federal government. The U.S. has no counterpart, although its Federal Election Commission does regulate campaign finance legislation.

Featured Businesses

Go to the Marketplace »