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The Dead Vote in Chicago Elections

Cemetery Survey-An Analysis of the Dead Vote

Professor Roger Mortis, Depallbearer University

 (Ed. Note: This article is part of a book to be published later this year by Dr. Mortis titled Seance Survey Techniques, Hard Data From The Cold Dead.)


Voter studies in Chicago have never been taken seriously by professional political analysts. Unsolved problems have perplexed political scientists for the last fifty years.  There is for instance, the mysterious precinct population problem.  Statistical studies often show as many as eight precincts that have more registered Democrats than they have adult residents. In addition, surveys mailed to voters after elections are often returned in large numbers marked: “Deceased.”

This last problem has interested me ever since the 1960 presidential election in which the deceased vote played a crucial role in electing our now deceased President Kennedy.  Most analysts assume that the high percentage of dead persons on the Chicago voter registration rolls is evidence of corruption and not worthy of study.  But I wonder if these political scientists (many of whom are Republicans) are not writing off the dead vote merely because of the tremendous problems of analysis it presents.  It is certainly true that the corruption explanation is questionable.

The Corruption Argument—A Critique

Numerous problems arise when one seriously examines the corruption position.  First of all, my studies show that the dead rarely vote twice. As we all know, multiple voting is the prime characteristic of the statistically typical corrupt voter. (See the results of Boss and Tweed, “New York Politics and the Multiple Voter,” Journal of Irish American Politics, Nov. 1898.)  Secondly, a textual analysis of local Chicago editorials during the last election indicates that there were over a hundred references to “dead issues.”  If the dead don’t vote why do so many politicians give speeches that only the dead could listen to?   Thirdly, the importance of the dead in Chicago politics extends well beyond voting.  Numerous studies have shown that dead persons are collecting welfare, social security, city pensions, and perhaps a few city salaries.  There were even rumors earlier this year during Mayor Daley’s long absence from city hall that the mayor himself was dead or close to it. Those political scientists who cry about corruption and ignore the behavior of dead voters are really demonstrating their own inability to come up with the imaginative survey techniques necessary to analyze this critical voting phenomenon.

The Subtraction Process

As we noted above, the analyst first encounters the dead vote when post-election voter surveys are returned by the post office stamped “Deceased.”  Naturally a certain percentage of voters can be expected to die after election day.  But, in Chicago many voters die long before campaigning begins. The first problem then is how to determine what the dead vote for in the absence of survey results.  To solve this problem it is necessary to borrow a statistical technique from one of our sister sciences—in this case the science of arithmetic. The technique is known as “subtraction.”  I won’t attempt here to explain the principles upon which subtraction is based, but the procedures are relatively simple.  First you take the total election results called the “subtractor,” then you establish through surveys the exact content of the “living” vote called the “subtractee.”  The latter is then removed from the former in the “process of subtraction” and the result is called, oddly enough, the “result.”  In our case the result is a very accurate record of the dead vote and it proves to be very interesting indeed.

The first observation one must make is that the percentage of voting dead is very small, especially when you consider that a vast majority of the dead are of voting age and most of them have no trouble meeting residency requirements. (Latest Bureau of Census figures indicate that last year 17 % of the population moved.  Almost none of these people were dead.)  The vote is concentrated in the inner-city cemeteries.  The wealthy dead in suburban cemeteries, your “forest lawn” crowd, rarely vote at all.  We have always said that wealth is of little importance after death—the “you can’t take it with you” doctrine.  But perhaps it is time to reexamine this old aphorism and collect some hard data to see if it really is true.  (On this point, see the work of Ludvig Von Smitton in the March 1928 edition of the Mystic Marxist Monthly. His article “Class ­Consciousness After Death”is a landmark in the field.)

Corruptionists often point to the high percentage of Democratic voting among the dead as evidence of their theory.  But the alternative explanation is clear. The voting dead are traditionally Democrats.  Many of them were formerly residents of the skid-row districts of the city where they have been paid to vote for the Democratic party for years.  But what really explains the Democratic preference is that the dead like the immigrants, the members of racial minorities, the poor are an oppressed class suffering from discrimination. They are crowded into locations that would make the worst slum look like Beverly Hills.  Despite their vast experience, they are typically denied the right to hold office. They are the brunt of numerous jokes—always being compared to doornails and accused of smelling bad.  They are systematically segregated from the mainstream of American life.  Sure, some of your best friends are dead, but when was the last time you invited one to visit your home? How would you feel if your daughter wanted to marry one?  Is it any wonder that what few of them are able to vote support the part of Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman and John Kennedy (all of whom are themselves dead)?  The wonder is they don’t vote in larger blocs.

But perhaps Chicago is just a beginning.  There is certainly much more research needed in dead voting behavior, and I only hope I’ll be able to finish it before I am forced to join the rank and file of that ultimate underground movement.



A version of this parody was published in Leviathan, Vol. 1, No. 8, May 1975.




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