One thing we have learnt from our last week’s reading: “The Dictator’s Handbook” that be it autocratic and democratic leaders, the political leaders want to remain on the power, no matter what. This power is a necessary instrument for them to gain more and this has nothing to do with mouthful phrases like “greater-good-of-the-humanity!” In continuation of that process, this week we have seen, what are the “irregular” ways of staying on power for democratic leaders. Rigging election, with innumerable ways showed by Campbell, Gist and Shapiro, have always played an important role in the USA politics (hard to believe as a non-USA citizen, really hard!). With the examples from mid-to-late 19th century Louisville, Kentucky and Adams County, Ohio it is clear that buying votes in exchange of money or liquor, manipulating voter lists and information, manipulating ballot box, using police force, creating deliberate confusion among voters, using moving railways (I did not clearly understand though how that worked actually), and very recent examples of using voter information from with the advancement of technology for own benefit – everything can contribute to one important thing: election rigging.
All of those strategies can largely be categorized in two areas – fraud that adds to a candidate’s vote total, and fraud that suppresses an opponent’s vote total. Both of them, at least to some extent, have equally devastating impact on democracy. But I think, from the readings and the experience of my mother land – Bangladesh, the later one is slightly ahead in the game of destroying democracy. I am not sure if this is exactly applicable to the USA’s system as it has a very different one from my country. But in my country, applying the second one can dominate the representation of the opposition in the national parliament very profoundly. If any political party is willing to and somehow finds out a way of suppressing opponent’s total vote count, this can lead to form an absolute majority for the winning party. In political conditions like Bangladesh or India, it has been very uncommon to get an absolute majority in the (national/regional) elections, hence, forming coalition mostly becomes necessary for forming the government. Coalition among parties, from the perspective of South Asia and Bangladesh, is a way on maintaining checks-and-balance for decision making and implementation of those decisions. This can sometimes (only a few times to be more specific) be proven helpful for the mass people as well. Now, going back to election rigging, thus, suppressing opponent’s total vote count can have more harmful effect on democracy than that of increasing one’s total vote count. Well, this can be explained in mathematical equation as well.
However, which country/region/political party will start following what it is not decided over night. But, the socio-political history of the specific place, as Campbell argued in his conclusion, decides and determines what “irregularities” (if any) would be followed for grabbing the power. Hence, I think, the negative effects of election rigging in any ways on democracy can be lessened if previous events are analyzed well and measures taken appropriately.
And just a last one question, does anything like the examples or any modern versions of these take place in present day USA elections? Curious mind wants to know!