By Nathan Barton
We know it is a problem – meddling or tampering or interfering with free elections. It is a nearly daily headline in the Fifty States today. It is always identified with finding someone or some group (such as a foreign government or evil industrialists) to blame for the tampering, and it is always condemned in very strong terms as being corrosive and destructive of “democracy” and/or a republican form of government.
This is one of those things that virtually everyone sees as evil. And apparently that everyone believes can be, somehow, someway, if enough money and effort is used, prevented or defeated.
I beg to differ.
Oh, I’m not saying that meddling with elections is good – though not as evil as so much else associated with government. And the fact that politicians and those who support them are willing to try and tamper is just one more count in the incredibly long indictment against them.
But what I do disagree with the “common wisdom” about is this: that tampering can be prevented, defeated, and even controlled very much.
Like so much else to do with government, elections are always corrupted to some degree. And no matter how narrowly you define tampering or meddling, it always happens. Whether it is voter fraud or vote fraud or flatout bribery.
And that has been the case as long as there have been elections.
Not even touching on elections in the Holy Roman Empire (yes, they had elections) or in the Kingdom of England and later the United Kingdom, people and groups have tampered with elections. Indeed, the historian sometimes wonders if ANY elections have ever been uncorrupted, free, honest, elections. Whether in the original Thirteen States or any of the present Fifty States. And in that, include elections in the eleven Confederate States. There is no reason NOT to believe that elections, at least all major elections, have been meddled with in some way – especially if we use the way the media apparently currently defines election meddling.
And we will not touch on the rest of the world, from post-Revolutionary elections in France to Germany in the inter-war years, or post-colonial and post-Soviet elections in much of the world. Here is one site that touches on the problem, worldwide. Even that list is questionable, but it does make some good points.
Here in the States, let us look at a few:
New York governor’s race of 1792 – wholesale rejection of every vote from several counties let George Clinton (no relation that I know of to Bill) win over John Jay.
Kansas (territorial) legislative elections of 1855 – freely acknowledged and documented voter fraud, fradulant votes (stuffing the ballot box), voter and election official intimidation created a proslavery legislature in a territory which seemed to have an anti-slavery majority. A clear example of where ambiguities in law let mischief reign.
The presidential race of 1960 – Despite his demigod status today, JFK won over Richard Nixon because of what most agree was wholesale fraud in Illinois by union and other Democratic groups. Other States also had questionable results.
The presidential race of 2000 – It is claimed by many that Gore supporters worked very hard to convince (and threaten and intimidate) GOP Electors to become “faithless” and vote for Gore, who had won the popular vote and needed only four Electoral votes to win.
The New Hampshire US Senate race of 2002 – the GOP is accused of using a phone-jamming system to sabotage a “get-out-the-vote” campaign which many believe swung the vote to the GOP candidate. (Sununu won by less than 20,000 votes, 50.8% of the vote: four people were convicted of the tampering.)
(I’m not going to count the 1876 election in which Hays defeated Democrat Tilden by 1 electoral vote (losing the popular vote by almost 300,000). I’ve no doubt that the election in several of the Thirty-nine States was marred by various incidents of fraud, coercion, and more, but the electoral college vote seems to have been honest. And the corrupt deal in Congress in February just accepted the vote of the Electoral College.)
This list just skims the surface of a deep, dark pool. And every law that is passed, every bit of new technology to “secure” the vote, every judicial decision, seemingly only increase the opportunities for mischief, whether it is from the Koch Brothers, the Russians, the unions, or whatever boogeyman you want to claim.
Because they fail to address the root of the problem: the power which government holds over the lives, incomes, property, and destiny of the people. And therefore, the power which these officeholders and their appointees have.
Because the solution to corrupt elections and attempts (successful or not) to meddle, interfere with, and steal elections is simple: strip governments (at all levels) of the power, the control, which they exercise “for our own good.” Make Americans (and all people) free to make and implement their own decisions, be responsible for the results of their choices and actions.
This won’t get rid of meddling and tampering with the election process, at any point. But what it will do is make that meddling, that corruption, moot. If the only power that an elected government official has is to decide what to name a street or when to take a coffee break, it won’t matter whether the election was stolen, or tampered with, or bogus. Even a great reduction of governmental power, back to the level of, say, 1849, or even 1949, would reduce the temptation of meddling, and reduce most of the benefits of successful tampering.