Berry (American Social Thought, History/Univ. of Pennsylvania; We Are Who We Say We Are: A Black Family's Search for Home Across the Atlantic World, 2014, etc.) exposes vote buying and corruption, which is as pervasive as ever.
Vote buying, of course, is not a new phenomenon. George Washington hosted voters in the tavern before the first presidential election; getting voters lubricated has always been the easiest way to buy their votes. Machine politics and corruption have changed little since Reconstruction. For political bosses, dirty tricks are their stock in trade. Some examples of these include closing the clerk’s office early on a filing date or just ignoring evidence of vote buying. Ballot-box stuffing is widespread, as well, but the best method for vote stealing is the absentee ballot. Workers collect names from retirement homes, halfway houses, and low-income housing, mark the ballots, bundle them up, and present them to the county registrar, often a relative of those in power. Buying votes for beer or food is one method, “taking care” of voters in poor neighborhoods another. In much of the narrative, Berry follows Greg Malveaux, the tireless head of Louisiana’s Voter Fraud Division, who traveled the state collecting evidence that would never be used: why would a prosecutor file suit against the voters and political money that put him in office? Federal prosecution is effective but only available if a federal candidate is on the ballot or there is a federal discrimination issue. As the former chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, the author has seen expansion of voting rights lead to more voter suppression and actually cause vote counts to decline. Honest elections undermine the reward system of the poor.
Berry helpfully exposes disturbing facts from across the country. Sadly, solutions cause the corrupt to create new ways to suppress voters, and it’s a losing battle when local culture doesn’t think it’s a crime.