The year was 1956. Dwight Eisenhower ran for the Republicans and Adlai Stevenson II for the Democrats. Eisenhower had been a World War II hero, Stevenson the bookish but eloquent ex-Governor of Illinois who had already been defeated by Eisenhower in 1952.
Enter my friend “Rock,” aka Rich Adelstein. He was a bright and curious nine-year-old, out playing on election day, November 6, 1956. And his path took him past the local polling place. It was late in the day, not long before the polls would close and few, if any, voters were around. A Democratic Party election judge was out for a smoke. And Rock, interested in seeing what was going on, peeked into the polling place.
“Hey kid,” said the aforementioned judge, “how’d you like to vote Democratic?” And so, in the blink of an eye, my friend was ushered into the most sacred place in any republic, the voting booth, where one is supposed to be alone and free to vote his conscience, without observation or interference. And, I might add, where one is supposed to be old enough to qualify for the opportunity to cast a ballot.
As Rock recalls it, he voted a straight Democratic ticket, just as he was instructed. It was, in fact, what his parents had done, although they had no expectation that there would be three votes for Stevenson from their family.
Well, if you know your history, Stevenson lost “big time.” The final tally was: Eisenhower 35,579,180; Stevenson 26,028,028. Not even Rock’s help could put Adlai over the top.
I don’t think these things happen around here any more. At least I hope that they don’t.
These days, in some parts of the country, suppression of legal voters is more likely than illegal voting by nine-year-olds or 99-year-old dead people, as sometimes also happened way back when. Indeed, colonial America was a place where “voting rights (were) limited to certain religious denominations,” according to Steven Waldman in the brilliant book Founding Faith. And I haven’t even mentioned restrictions based on property ownership, gender, and race that prevailed much longer.
Some people steal your money, some people steal the ability to vote. Some do the latter so that they can do the former once in office. Over four billion dollars were raised to influence the 2012 U.S. election.
Check your wallet.