You often hear that there is no vote count fraud to speak of in America’s big cities, but the first election I experience up close in Chicago, the Illinois gubernatorial election of 1982, might lead me to think otherwise. The GOP candidate had been well ahead in the surveys, but then on election night the results were surprisingly close. Vote counting went on for days before the Republican finally won.
This recent swatch of history isn’t well known, but a 2016 Salon article by Mary Frances Berry reports that 63 Cook County Democrats were subsequently convicted of vote fraud.
In The Making of the President, 1960, Theodore White reports that he was hanging out with the Kennedy staffers at Hyannisport while the protracted 1960 Illinois vote count was dragging on:
“Even in the most corrupt states of the Union, one cannot steal more than one or two percent of the vote… The AP was pressing its reporters for returns, and the reporters were trying to gouge out of the Republican and Democratic machines their vote-stealing, precinct by precinct totals. … It was downstate (Republican) versus Cook County (Democratic), and the bosses, holding back totals from key precincts, were playing out their concealed cards under pressure of publicity as in a giant game of blackjack.
“… the AP ticker chattered its keys once more and reported: ‘ With all downstate precincts now reported in, and only Cook County precincts unreported, Richard Nixon has surged into the lead by 3,000 votes.’
“I was dismayed, for if Nixon really carried Illinois, the game was all but over. And at this point I was jabbed from dismay by the outburst of jubilation from young Dick Donahue, who yelped, ‘He’s got them! Daley made them go first! He’s still holding back — watch him play his hand now.” I was baffled, they were elated. But they knew the counting game better than I, and as if in response to Donahue’s yelp, the ticker, having stuttered along for several minutes with other results, announced: ‘With the last precincts of Cook County now in, Senator Kennedy has won a lead of 8,000 votes to carry Illinois’s 27 electoral votes.’
Later that evening, Kennedy told his friend Ben Bradlee of an early call from Daley, when all seemed in doubt. “With a little bit of luck and the help of a few close friends,” Daley had assured Kennedy before the AP had pushed out the count, “you’re going to carry Illinois.”