Atlas Obscura has a fascinating article by Natalie Zarrelli on voter fraud and electoral nastiness in America’s past.
This summer Donald Trump stoked fears that rampant voter fraud could hurt his chances in the 2016 presidential election even as federal courts were striking down voter-identification laws in several states, with a judge in Wisconsin rejecting what he called “a preoccupation with mostly phantom election fraud.”
Those concerns stem from the very real voting fraud schemes of the 19th century, when political parties employed tactics more often associated with pirates and human-trafficking gangs. Before sophisticated computer models were used to get out the vote, violent gangs would kidnap voters, feed them alcohol or drugs and force them to vote multiple times dressed in various disguises. Known as “cooping,” this was a common strategy to ensure a win on election day.
In the 1800s, United States elections were rife with fraud, and political parties were more like private clubs than the bureaucratic representatives we have today, so cooping fit right into politics of the time. A book on the history of Catholicism in the United States says that “the practice of “cooping” voters on election day was quite common,” and campaign gangs who corralled voters were, according to one definition, “wining and dining [victims] till they “vote” according to wishes of the “Coop-manager,” disrupting the American voting process.
Back then voters’ lists and pre-registration were difficult to track, and voting wasn’t necessarily conducted in secret. “Often, it was impossible to figure out who had voted when or where, and some candidates hired gang members as voting marshals to oversee elections.”
Some think Edgar Allan Poe died in a cooping incident during a Baltimore election.
Read the whole article here.