Say precinct captains linked to vote fraud

Dec. 17, 1984

CHICAGO -- A special federal grand jury Monday blamed the political patronage system for much of the longstanding election fraud in Chicago, saying precinct captains sold votes at $2 each and bribed voters with liquor.

The grand jury has charged 62 people with vote fraud since it was convened to investigate vote fraud charges after the Nov. 2, 1982, election.

Among other things, the 26-page report, only the third of its kind in the last 20 years, detailed how votes in one ward were sold for $2 each, and that one precinct captain gave out drinks as an incentive for voters.

'It is apparent that the Chicago patronage system creates the incentive for the precinct captain to steal votes on election day,' it stated.

'The patronage system and the rewards and benefits it promises can be used by the precinct captain as an effective tool in obtaining cooperation from election judges and in carrying out illegal vote fraud activities.'

The report recommends:

-Eestablishment of full-time professional election judges;

-A system in which a voter's thumb print would be recorded on his voter registration card and ballot application at the polling place;

-A system of counting votes immediately and voiding the ballot card so it cannot be rerun through a counting machine.

An average of 10 percent of the total votes cast in the precincts examined in the November 1982 election were fraudulently cast, said U.S. Attorney Dan K. Webb, who released the report.

'If you have a 10 percent vote fraud factor then you do not have a democracy,' he said.

In every instance of an indictment by the grand jury, the precinct captain involved was a city worker, Webb said.

'The precinct captain, as a political appointee, is only answerable to the ward committeeman and his political party, and not to the officials of the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners, who are legally responsible for conducting fair and honest elections,' the report said. 'This loyalty to the ward committeeman exists because the precinct captain often holds a city job obtained through the efforts of the ward committeeman.'

According to the report, the actual stealing of votes often involved a complex scheme hatched by the precinct captain, who would find out the registered voters not voting on election day and then forge the ballots with those names, the report said.

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