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El fraude y la manipulación electoral son problemas que han acompañado a los estadounidenses a lo largo de su historia. Desde la compra de votos hasta el amendrentamiento y la violencia,  diversos grupos y partidos políticos han usado diferentes mecanismos para manipular la elecciones a nivel local y nacional.  Comparto esta nota escrita por el Dr. Jon Grinspan, curador en el  National Museum of American History, analizando este problema desde la actual coyuntura electoral estadounidense.


In the old days, nobody needed help from a foreign country.

The New York Times      October  24, 2020

Around supper time on Election Day, 1880, the poll workers in Bolivar County, Miss., were getting hungry. Someone ran out for sardines and crackers. The officials noshed and counted votes until the “violent laxative” that had been added to the Republicans’ sardines started to take effect. Then they ran for the outhouses while the remaining Democrats counted a suspiciously large majority.

As a historian of American democracy, I used to collect anecdotes like this from the mid-to-late 1800s. They dramatized, with outlandish gall, just how different America’s past was from the square politics I grew up with in the late 20th century. But on the eve of an election the president of the United States has declared might be stolen from him, a fear he promises to counter with an “army” of partisan poll watchers, dirty tricks don’t feel so distant. As our politics have darkened, I’ve shifted away from studying spiked sardines, wondering instead how Americans ever stopped stealing elections.

 

Such thefts are not cute. They robbed thousands of people of their rights, helped kill Reconstruction, and forestalled political reform. We still suffer from these crimes, over a century later. But in a striving nation dominated by what Charles Dickens called “the love of smart dealings,” crooked politicians often chuckled about their cunning. “Instead of wrath” at stolen elections, the humorist James Russell Lowell complained upon returning from abroad, “I found banter.” When the journalist Lincoln Steffens mentioned a St. Louis trick to a party boss in Philadelphia, the two began excitedly talking shop, “as one artist to another.” Although most elections were (relatively) clean, “majority manufacturers” in teeming Northern cities, racially tense Southern districts and new Western settlements laid out two paths for stealing elections — steal the cast or steal the count.

Understanding how these swindles worked can help shed light on what we should and shouldn’t worry about in 2020.

Stealing elections often started with the U.S. Postal Service — central to this election as well. In a nation that was over 80 percent rural, post offices were a choke point for political news. But they were run by deeply partisan postmasters, appointed by the very congressmen they’d help elect, and they frequently “lost” the opposition’s newspapers or correspondences. And because parties privately printed their own ballots in those days, post offices and newspaper publishers could buy up all the paper in town, making it difficult for rivals to get enough tickets. Even the telegraph wires couldn’t be trusted: In the contested presidential election of 1876, Western Union operators sent Democratic politicians’ private messages straight to Republican headquarters.

The tricks grew more confrontational on Election Day itself. Most states lacked voter registration systems, so partisans hung around the polls, challenging illegal voters — on account of age, race or residency — and intimidating legal ones they believed would vote for the rival ticket. Challenges could be oddly intimate, like the elderly Democrat in Civil War-torn Missouri who was threatened by a young man who “I have known ever since he was a child.” They could also lead to atrocious brutality. In the South at the end of Reconstruction, white Democratic rifle clubs “policed” the polls. They invented the term “bulldoze” in 1876 to describe the use of a “dose” of the bullwhip to terrorize African-American voters.

No Registry Law and Tammany | ClipArt ETC

Unlike today, there actually was widespread fraud in casting ballots, what Rudyard Kipling called the uniquely American “art of buying up votes retail.” A glass of lager, $5 or a pork chop sandwich might win over a decisive minority, up to 10 percent in some states. A Norwegian immigrant in Minneapolis was struck by how open this illegal behavior was, often “considered clever and was not concealed.” But an odd code dominated this illicit activity. Jane Addams described the consequences for an unscrupulous man who sold his vote to both parties. He was punished with a Chicago-style tar-and-feathering, his head held under a blasting fire hydrant on a cold November day.

Wholesale fraud trumped buying votes retail. In big cities and new settlements where many voters were strangers, parties practiced what became known as “colonizing”: filling a district with temporary voters. Mid-Atlantic cities saw an election season shell game, with Philadelphians sent to vote in Manhattan and New Yorkers swinging Baltimore elections. In the South, elections were sometimes stolen in the opposite manner. White Democrats conspired to win north Florida in 1876 by sending a large crew of Republican African-American railroad workers to work in Alabama. Their train mysteriously broke down there, stranding them on Election Day.

Ballot fraud was even easier than moving men around, at a time when voters cast a galaxy of paper tickets. There were “tissue ballots,” so thin that a voter could cast ten folded up to look like a single vote, or “tapeworm ballots,” long and skinny to prevent dissenters from “scratching” in names of candidates not approved by the party. When parties began to color-code ballots, some used the opposition’s chosen color to fool illiterates. Among election thieves, “every body thought it was a pretty sharp trick.”

“Stealing the cast” on Election Day was a lot of work, much of it illegal and confrontational. “Stealing the count” was easier. It required quietly turning power into more power, using local officials to swing state elections with national consequences. The notorious Democratic journalist Marcus (Brick) Pomeroy later bragged about throwing opposition votes into the fire when he worked one election in Wisconsin. Missing ballots sometimes showed up, charred and deserted, on Mississippi roads.
The Republican Convention in Chicago in June 1880, at which James A. Garfield became the nominee. This era of outlandish dirty tricks no longer seems so distant.

Credit…C.D. Mosher, via Getty Images

In the 1876 election, while the Democrats decisively won the popular vote, Republican-controlled returning boards in disputed states used fraud, bribery and the U.S. Army to steal the count. In Louisiana, they disqualified whole parishes, throwing out one in 10 votes statewide, 85 percent of them for Democrats. To figure out who would win an election, wrote a furious Democrat watching Republicans inaugurate President “Ruther-fraud” B. Hayes, you needn’t predict the future: “You need only to know what kind of scoundrels constitute the returning boards.”

This ugly history tells us some useful things about the present. First, stealing the vote itself takes an incredible amount of labor. Coordinating machines capable of casting large numbers of fraudulent ballots required massive efforts, amounting to organized criminal conspiracies. Study after study finds that there is no significant voting fraud today, a claim borne out by history: Such a crime takes a lot of work and leaves a lot of evidence.

History also shows that there is a choice to be made. Around 1890 the nation came to a fork in the road. Southern states systematized “bulldozing,” writing new constitutions that made it nearly impossible for African-Americans to vote. With Jim Crow laws and minuscule turnouts, those states ceased to be functioning democracies.

But in the rest of the nation, many were tired of the smirking frauds. The radical Nebraska activist Luna Kellie wrote that until elections were cleaned up, there was “very little use of thinking of any other reform.” James Russell Lowell warned that democracy was in more danger than it had been during the Civil War, because while Confederates seceded with half the nation, crooked politicians were “filching from us the whole of our country.”

Acts of Enforcement: The New York City Election of 1870Electoral reform became a hot topic, attracting canny reformers and rapt attention. Men who had once colonized districts wrote new elections laws. Steffens, a muckraking journalist whom the Philadelphia boss described as “a born crook that’s gone straight,” published wildly popular studies of different political machines’ dirtiest tricks. Many of our election rules date from that moment, around 1900, when Americans redirected their “love of smart dealings” toward tightening up electoral systems, rather than finding ways around them.

In 2020, America may be at another fork. “Bad men at the ballot box,” as one Texas preacher called them in 1890, may reappear to intimidate voters. Accusations of fraud might motivate spiraling political thefts. Or perhaps all of this anxiety will focus our wandering attention back to neglected electoral practices, as it did after 1890. How elections work — once a powerfully unsexy topic — may well attract the vital interest of activists, donors and students once again.

There’s no telling how the cast and count will go in 2020, but we can hope that the American people know a rotten sardine when they smell one.

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La supresión o anulación del derecho al voto ha sido un tema recurrente en la actual campaña electoral estadounidense. Comparto este artículo en el que el historiador Mark Krasovic nos recuerda que esta es una práctica muy presente en la historia estadounidense. Para ello analizará las tácticas usadas por el Partido Republicano para suprimir el derecho al voto en el estado de New Jersey en la década de 1980. El Dr. Krasovic es profesor de historia de Estados Unidos en la Universidad de Rutgers.


How Voter Suppression Imperils the Midterms - Progressive.org

Trump’s encouragement of GOP poll watchers echoes an old tactic of voter intimidation

The Conversation   September 30, 2020

During the first presidential debate, Donald Trump was asked by moderator Chris Wallace if he would “urge” his followers to remain calm during a prolonged vote-counting period after the election, if the winner were unclear.

“I am urging my supporters to go into the polls and watch very carefully because that is what has to happen, I am urging them to do it,” Trump said. “I hope it’s going to be a fair election, and if it’s a fair election, I am 100 percent on board, but if I see tens of thousands of ballots being manipulated, I can’t go along with that.”

This wasn’t the first time Trump has said he wants to recruit poll watchers to monitor the vote. And to some, the image of thousands of Trump supporters crowding into polling places to monitor voters looks like voter intimidation, a practice long used in the U.S. by political parties to suppress one side’s vote and affect an election’s outcome.

In the history of voter suppression in the U.S. – including attempts to stop Black and Latino people from voting – Republican tactics in the 1981 New Jersey gubernatorial race are worth highlighting. That incident sparked a court order – a “consent decree” – forbidding the GOP from using a variety of voter intimidation methods, including armed poll watchers.

The 2020 presidential election will be the first in nearly 40 years conducted without the protections afforded by that decree.

The National Ballot Security Task Force

In November 1981, voters in several cities saw posters at polling places printed in bright red letters. “WARNING,” they read. “This area is being patrolled by the National Ballot Security Task Force.”

And voters soon encountered the patrols themselves. About 200 were deployed statewide, many of them uniformed and carrying guns.

In Trenton, patrol members asked a Black voter for her registration card and turned her away when she didn’t produce it. Latino voters were similarly prevented from voting in Vineland, while in Newark some voters were physically chased from the polls by patrolmen, one of whom warned a poll worker not to stay at her post after dark. Similar scenes played out in at least two other cities, Camden and Atlantic City.

Weeks later, after a recount, Republican Thomas Kean won the election by fewer than 1,800 votes.

Democrats, however, soon won a significant victory. With local civil rights activists, they discovered that the “ballot security” operation was a joint project of the state and national Republican committees. They filed suit in December 1981, charging Republicans with “efforts to intimidate, threaten and coerce duly qualified black and Hispanic voters.”

In November 1982, the case was settled when the Republican committees signed a federal consent decree – a court order applicable to activities anywhere in the U.S. – agreeing not to use race in selecting targets for ballot security activities and to refrain from deploying armed poll watchers.

That order expired in 2018 after Democrats failed to convince a judge to renew it.

As a professor who teaches and writes about New Jersey history, I’m alarmed by the expiration because I know that Republicans in 1981 relied not only on armed poll watchers but also on a history of white vigilantism and intimidation in the Garden State. These issues resonate today in the midst of the Black Lives Matter movement and continued GOP attempts to suppress the 2020 vote in numerous states.

 U.S. Rep. John Lewis with House Democrats before passing the Voting Rights Advancement Act to eliminate potential state and local voter suppression laws, Dec. 29, 2019. The Senate has not taken up the bill. AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite  

The Republican ‘ballot security’ plan

Considered an early referendum on Ronald Reagan’s presidency, New Jersey’s 1981 gubernatorial race held special meaning for Republicans nationwide. Kean – with campaign manager Roger Stone at the helm – promised corporate tax cuts and relied heavily on Reagan’s endorsement.

To secure victory, state and national Republican party officials devised a project they claimed would prevent Democratic cheating at the polls.

In the summer of 1981, the Republican National Committee sent an operative named John A. Kelly to New Jersey to run the ballot security effort. Kelly had first been hired by the Republican National Committee in 1980 to work in the Reagan campaign, and he served as one of the RNC’s liaisons to the Reagan White House.

Later, after he was revealed as the organizer of the National Ballot Security Task Force – and after The New York Times discovered that he had lied about graduating from Notre Dame and had been arrested for impersonating a police officer – Republicans distanced themselves from him.

In August 1981, under the guise of the National Ballot Security Task Force, Kelly sent about 200,000 letters marked “return to sender” to voters in heavily Black and Latino districts. Those whose letters were returned had their names added to a list of voters to be challenged at the polls on Election Day, a tactic known as voter caging.

In the Newark area, Kelly produced a list of 20,000 voters whom he deemed potentially fraudulent. He then hired local operatives to organize patrols, ostensibly to keep such fraud at bay. To run the Newark operation, he hired Anthony Imperiale.

Newark’s white vigilante

Imperiale, in turn, hired off-duty police officers and employees of his private business, the Imperiale Security Police, to patrol voting sites in the city.

The gun-toting, barrel-chested former Marine had first adopted the security role during Newark’s 1967 uprising – five days of protests and a deadly occupation of the city by police and the National Guard following the police beating of a Black cab driver. During the uprising, Imperiale organized patrols of his predominantly white neighborhood to keep “the riots” out.

Soon, Imperiale became a hero of white backlash politics. His opposition to police reform earned him widespread support from law enforcement. And his fight against Black housing development in Newark’s North Ward delighted many of his neighbors. By the end of the 1970s, Hollywood was making a movie based on his activities.

Actress Frances Fisher arrives to speak at a downtown rally in Los Angeles, California on May 19, 2016, to bring attention to voter suppression. Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

After serving as an independent in both houses of the state legislature, Imperiale became a Republican in 1979. Two years later, he campaigned with Kean. Once in office, the new governor named Imperiale director of a new one-man state Office of Community Safety – an appointment often interpreted as reward for Imperiale’s leadership of the ballot efforts in Newark, but stymied when Democrats refused to fund the position.

Outcome and legacy

Despite Kean’s slim margin of victory, Democrats at the time were careful not to claim that Republican voter suppression efforts had decided the election. (In 2016, the former Democratic candidate claimed they did indeed make the difference.)

Rather, the state and national Democratic committees brought suit against the Republican National Committee to ensure it couldn’t again use such methods anywhere. For nearly 40 years – through amendments and challenges – the resulting consent decree helped curtail voter suppression tactics.

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Since the decree’s expiration in 2018, Republicans have ramped up their recruitment of poll watchers for the 2020 presidential election. Last November, Trump campaign lawyer Justin Clark – calling the decree’s absence “a huge, huge, huge, huge deal” for the party – promised a larger, better-funded and “more aggressive” program of Election Day operations.

The Trump campaign is claiming, as Republicans did in 1981, that Democrats “will be up to their old dirty tricks” and has vowed to “cover every polling place in the country” with workers to ensure an honest election and reelect the president.

This November, Republican tactics in 1981 are worth remembering. They demonstrate that the safeguarding of polling places from supposedly fraudulent voters and of public places from Black bodies share not only a logic. They also share a history.

This is an updated version of an article originally published on August 10, 2020.

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El voto por correo se ha convertido en un tema controversial en las elecciones presidenciales estadounidense. Donald J. Trump ha cuestionado, sin evidencia, la transparencia del voto por correo, alegando que facilitaría un fraude masivo que le podría costar la reelección. No voy analizar la validez de las alegaciones del Presidente, pues ese no es el objetivo de este blog. Lo que pretendo hacer es colocar el tema en su contexto  compartiendo un breve artículo de Jessica Pearce Rotondi titulado “Vote-by-Mail Programs Date Back to the Civil War“.  Publicado en la revista History, este ensayo confirma la antigüedad y utilidad que el voto por correo ha tenido en la historia de Estados Unidos.


War 

 

Jessica Pearce Rotondi

 

History   September 24, 2020

 

Voting by mail can trace its roots to soldiers voting far from home during the Civil War and World War II. By the late 1800s, some states were extending absentee ballots

to civilian voters under certain conditions, but it wasn’t until 2000 that Oregon became the first state to move to an all-mail voting system. Here is everything you need to know about the history of absentee voting and vote by mail.

What Does the Constitution Say About Voting?

There is no step-by-step guide to voting in the United States Constitution. Article 1, Section 4 says that it’s up to each state to determine “The Times, Places and Manner

of holding Elections.” This openness has enabled the voting process in the United States to evolve as the country’s needs have changed.

The Founding Fathers voted by raising their voices—literally. Until the early 19th century, all eligible voters cast their “Viva Voce” (voice vote) in public. While the number of people eligible to vote in that era was low and primarily composed of land- owning white males, turnout hovered around 85 percent, largely due to enticing voting parties held at polling stations.

The first paper ballots appeared in the early 19th century and were originally blank pieces of paper. By the mid-1800s, they had gone to the other extreme: political

parties printed tickets with the names of every candidate pre-filled along party lines. It wasn’t until 1888 that New York and Massachusetts became the first states to adopt pre-printed ballots with the names of all candidates (a style called the “Australian ballot” after where it was created). By then, another revolution in voting had taken place: Absentee voting.

The first widespread instance of absentee voting in the United States was during theCivil War. The logistics of a wartime election were daunting: “We cannot have free government without elections,” President Abraham Lincoln told a crowd outside theWhite House in 1864, “and if the rebellion could force us to forgo, or postpone a national election, it might fairly claim to have already conquered and ruined us.

Captura de pantalla 2020-10-03 a la(s) 17.59.53.png

 Union Army soldiers lined up to vote in the 1864 election during the American Civil War.
Interim Archives/Getty Images 

 

“Lincoln was concerned about the outcome of the midterm elections,” says Bob Stein, Director of the Center for Civic Leadership at Rice University. “Lincoln’s Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton, pointed out that there were a lot of Union soldiers who couldn’t vote, so the president encouraged states to permit them to cast their ballots from the field.” (There was some precedent for Lincoln’s wish; Pennsylvania became the first state to offer absentee voting for soldiers during the War of 1812.)

In the 1864 presidential election between Lincoln and George McClellan, 19 Union states changed their laws to allow soldiers to vote absentee. Some states permitted soldiers to name a proxy to vote for them back home while others created polling sites in the camps themselves. Approximately 150,000 out of one million soldiers voted in the election, and Lincoln carried a whopping 78 percent of the military vote.

By the late 1800s, several states offered civilians the option of absentee voting, though they had to offer an accepted excuse, most commonly distance or illness. The passage of the 15th Amendment in 1870 and 19th Amendment in 1920 expanded the number of eligible voters in the United States, but it would take another war to propel absentee voting back into the national spotlight.

Absentee Voting in World War II

Absentee voting re-entered the national conversation during World War II, when “both Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman encouraged military voting,” says Stein. The Soldier Voting Act of 1942 permitted all members of the military overseas to send their ballots from abroad. Over 3.2 million absentee ballots were cast during the war. The act was amended in 1944 and expired at war’s end.

Captura de pantalla 2020-10-03 a la(s) 18.01.36

GI’s on the fighting fronts in Italy, Capt. William H. Atkinson of Omaha, Nebraska, swears in Cpl. Tito Fargellese of Boston, Massachusetts , before Fargellese cast his ballot for the 1944 election.
Bettmann Archive/Getty Images

Legislation passed throughout the next few decades made voting easier for servicemen and women and their families: The Federal Voting Assistance Act of 1955; the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) in 1986; and the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment, or MOVE Act, signed by President Barack Obama in 2009.

 

States Expand Vote by Mail

“Before the civil rights movement., it was largely members of the military, expats and people who were truly disabled or couldn’t get to their jurisdiction who were permitted to vote absentee,” says Stein. While most historians cite California as the first state to offer no-excuse absentee voting, Michael Hanmer, research director of the Center for Democracy and Civic Engagement at the University of Maryland, says it was actually Washington state that made the switch in 1974.

Other Western states soon followed: “Western states are newer, have the biggest rural areas, the most land and are doing the most pioneering work,” says Lonna Atkeson, Director of the Center for the Study of Voting, Elections, and Democracy at the University of New Mexico. “Their progressive values played a role in their political culture.”

Oregon became the first state to switch to vote by mail exclusively in 2000. Washington followed in 2011.

EAVS Deep Dive: Early, Absentee and Mail Voting | U.S. Election Assistance  Commission

Did You Know? It took The Vietnam War for the voting age to be lowered to 18 with the ratification of the 26th amendment.

2020 Election: Which States Offer Voting by Mail?

The 2020 presidential election takes place in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, when concerns about virus transmission in crowds caused lawmakers to rethink rules around appearing in person to vote. For the first time in history, at least 75 percent of Americans are able to vote absentee.

In the 2020 election:

· Thirty-four U.S. states offer no-excuse absentee voting or permit registered voters to cite COVID-19 as their reason to vote absentee.

· Nine states and Washington, D.C. mail all ballots directly to voters: California, Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Nevada, New Jersey, Utah, Vermont and Washington.

· Seven states—Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, New York, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas—require voters to give a reason other than COVID-19 to vote absentee.

How to Vote by Mail

Ballots that go through the mail can be divided into two categories: Absentee ballots, typically requested by people who are unable to vote in person for physical reasons, and mail-in ballots, which are automatically provided to all eligible voters in states with all-mail voting systems.

The rules around voting by mail vary from state to state.

“When are ballots due? Postmarked? Federalism is a beautiful thing, but it’s complex because each state does something different,” says Atkeson. “In the end, access and security make for a well-run election and makes people feel that their vote is counted.”

How does vote-by-mail work and does it increase election fraud?

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Acaba de ser publicado el número 19 de la revista digital Huellas de Estados Unidos. En esta ocasión incluye una sección con la opinión de varios expertos latinoamericanos sobre el posible resultado de las elecciones presidenciales en Estados Unidos. Este  número incluye además, una interesante selección de artículos entre los que llaman poderosamente mi atención dos trabajos sobre las relaciones internacionales de Argentina y Estados Unidos. También destacan un ensayo de Sven Beckert sobre el algodón y la guerra civil, y el trabajo de Diego Alexander Olivera examinando el pensamiento político de los hermanos Kagan. Felicitamos y agradecemos a los editores de Huellas de Estados Unidos.


 

Huellas de Estados Unidos / #19 / Octubre 2020

Edicion 19

Haz click para descargar en formato pdf

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