The More Things Stay the Same

The funny thing about election reform and the debates we have today about elections is that they are not new. Consider, for example, the debate over corporate involvement in elections and whether corporations are doing nefarious things to tamper will ballots. Our friend Charles Stewart at MIT recently forwarded us an article from 1884, where the Western Union Corporation felt the need to defend itself from claims that it had tampered with election returns. (In the 1884 election, the Democrat, Grover Cleveland, defeated Republican James Blaine). The article–actually, an open letter to the public–was published in the Boston Globe and states in part:

Now since the presidential election is settled, and the excitement incident to a close political contest is abated, it is proper to say that we are prepared to show most conclusively the utter groundlessness of all charges against the Western Union Telegraph Company of partiality in reporting or withholding the election returns of the State of New York…. I deny in the most emphatic manner that the Western Union company delayed, altered or withheld the election returns of the State, or any other State, or tampered with them in any way….

What is interesting here too is that Green had a history in partisan politics, having served in the Kentucky State legislature.