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Want to find real voter fraud? Watch the history of Kansas, USA in the 1800s

Kansas Reflector welcomes opinion pieces from writers who share our goal of expanding the conversation about how public policy affects the daily lives of people across our state. Ron Smith is a fifth-generation Kansan, originally from Manhattan, Larned-practicing lawyer, multi-time grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and Civil War historian.

The late Congressman John Lewis, a civil rights warrior in the mold of Martin Luther King Jr., threw a rock at Kansas during his final year in office when he said there were more UFO sightings in Kansas than provable voter fraud allegations.

Lewis died before seeing the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election.

Former President Donald Trump’s post-election message continued to be that the 2020 election was stolen. Most candidates he has approved in 2022, support his efforts to “stop theft”.

Has there ever been anything like 2020 in our election history?

In Kansas, the answer is yes. In the 1800s, we saw two highly publicized and contested elections – both with significant and provable fraud. One concerned Kansas’ most important constitutional election in our tender territorial years, the adoption of the Lecompton Constitution.

The other was the presidential election of 1876. That election was so marred by fraud on both sides that Southerners polished their muskets in case another civil war broke out.

The disputed birth of Kansas

Illinois Senator Stephen A. Douglas sponsored the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854bringing Kansas into the country as a new territory.

Douglas was fed up with the senatorial yelps and sectional squabbles over slavery that always erupted when new states wanted to join the union. He also wanted to fund a transcontinental railroad with Chicago as the eastern terminus and needed the cooperation of the slave state. The slave states wanted Douglas’ help in authorizing slavery in the new territories.

The Douglas Compromise of 1854 changed the rules, allowing territorial settlers to decide in local elections whether their new territory entered the union as a free or slave state. Douglas’s only non-negotiable demand was that the territorial elections should be fair.

Over the next few years, settlers poured into Kansas, bringing with them their pro- and anti-slavery views. Violence broke out. In response to Lawrence’s May 1856 dismissal by Missourians, John Brown and his men took broadswords from five pro-slavery men, leaving mangled bodies floating in Pottawatomie Creek. was Kansas bleeding.

Pro-slavery elements eventually drafted a constitution allowing slavery in Kansas and scheduled a statewide vote on the Document Lecompton for January 1858.

The Free State men knew there would be fraud because fraud was no stranger to Kansas elections. The Free Staters have laid a trap. At Kickapoo on election day, Leavenworth Free State attorney Thomas Ewing and about 30 Free State men, all residents of the county, hung out. All afternoon they watched as a small ferry brought loads of Missourians across the Missouri River to vote in Kansas.

The Free State men knew there would be fraud because fraud was no stranger to Kansas elections. The Free Staters have laid a trap. At Kickapoo on election day, Leavenworth Free State attorney Thomas Ewing and about 30 Free State men, all residents of the county, hung out. All afternoon they watched as a small ferry brought loads of Missourians across the Missouri River to vote in Kansas.

At the end of the day, Ewing walked into the voting line and signed the register as the 550th voter. Only 300 registered voters lived in Kickapoo Township of Leavenworth County. John Calhoun, President James Buchanan’s Kansas territorial manager and practicing fraudster, announced that more than 900 votes were cast at Kickapoo. It was more evidence of fraud. The illegal “Missouri vote” in Kansas made the difference.

In Washington, after Calhoun’s telegram, a delighted Buchanan declared that Lecompton had been adopted and asked Congress to admit Kansas as a pro-slavery state.

The territorial legislature of the Free State met in emergency session and established a commission of inquiry into fraud. Ewing was the president.

Calhoun Deputy Jack Henderson admitted to tampering with election results at the Delaware Crossing precinct on Calhoun’s orders. Later, in an alley in Lecompton, the territorial capital, Ewing was shown a large box of ballots hidden under a pile of wood. After review, an entire repertoire of Ohio town names had been roughly spliced ​​into Kickapoo’s voting list.

Ewing immediately telegraphed Douglas evidence of voter fraud and that the election was far from “clean”. A disgusted Douglas burst onto the Senate floor and accused key Kansas men of uncovering fraud and “coming to Washington” to prove it.

Buchanan attempted to pass the Lecompton Bill. Fights broke out on the floor of Congress. The Senate narrowly ratified Lecompton’s Constitution, but it was defeated in the House.

A year later, another Kansas convention produced the Free State Constitution Wyandotte. This time there was no fraud. Kansas was admitted in 1861 as the 34th state.

Fight for the presidential election of 1876

In the summer of 1876, Ulysses Grant decided to retire from public life. He had presided over reconstruction efforts in the South that required federal troops to keep Republican state governments in power and protect newly enfranchised black voters.

Grant’s retirement threw the Presidential Field of 1876 wide-open. New York Democrat Samuel Tilden, the governor of that state, was the Democratic nominee. Ohio Republican Rutherford B. Hayes was the Republican. In South Carolina, Florida and Louisiana, the votes were extremely close. Tilden won the popular vote. Both sides reported that their man was victorious.

In the South, the Ku Klux Klan was among the white groups organizing during those years, and there was “ample evidence” of widespread voter suppression and intimidation against black voters in southern states. South. Republicans opposed the results in three states, and the Republican Congress immediately created a presidential commission to decide the disputed votes.

The irregularities were open and notorious. The ballot boxes were stuffed. Fraudulent ballots were printed to entice illiterate black voters to vote for the Democrats. Other black citizens were intimidated from voting by Klan and White Knight groups. In South Carolina, 104% of registered voters “voted” – a statistical impossibility. Hayes won the state by 880 votes. If Tilden had won South Carolina, he would have won the entire election.

Florida and Louisiana still had Republican state governments that year, remnants of the Civil War. Republican leaders in the state have been ordered to delay results until investigations can begin.

The commission struggled but could not decide anything because it was made up of supporters from both parties. Finally, the Democrats offered a compromise. It included funding another leg of the Intercontinental Railroad, appointing a Southerner to the President’s Cabinet, helping to rebuild the Southern economy, and returning authority on racial issues to the state governments, not Congress.

More importantly, in exchange for the Democrats’ concession of the election to Hayes, the Republicans agreed to withdraw federal troops from the South and halt Reconstruction. Blacks throughout the South were left unprotected. Decades of Jim Crow laws, “whites only” signs, lynchings and sporadic beatings began in the South.

An American apartheid lasted until the success of the civil rights efforts of the 1950s and 1960s.

Hayes lost the 1876 election, but he won the compromise with 185 electoral votes to Tilden’s 184. Hayes was not popular anywhere. In the South and among Northern Democrats, Hayes was dubbed “his fraud.”

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