COUP WATCH: Memories of A 1960 Chicago Poll Watcher
By Fred Hilgart
In 1960 I was in grad school in Chicago. I was involved in community
building in Chicago's fifth ward led by Independent Councilman Leon DuPre.
DuPre was a liberal in Mayor Daley's conservative town. We were fighting
the city on a number of different fronts when the Presidential election was
I went into a precinct in the eighth ward to be the republican poll watcher.
My job was to watch the counting of the paper ballots. Alderman DuPre
instructed us poll watcher in a number of different ways a ballot could be
challanged. One of these was that the x needed to be in the box. Well, I
was young and enthusiastic to work against the Daley man who was on the
opposite side, a man by the name of Joe McMahone the County Clerk.
my job very seriously and challanged any ballot which didn't have a good
solid x right in the middle of the box. McMahone went along with me for
awhile but then stopped to explain to me that these ballots were made by old
people some of whom could barely see but nevertheless made a extrodinary
effort to cast their vote. He was correct as some of the x s were so wobbly
they could hardly be disinguished from other letters, Although at the time
I was a real tiger seeking reform of Chicago Politics. McMahone went on to
point out that we need to acknowedge these votes where the intent was clear.
I easily saw his arguement was valid.
Later when I made my report to Dupre I told him what I had done. He agreed
with McMahone and stated that that regulation did not mean that votes with
the x outside the box should be rejected; just challanged to make sure the
voters intent was clear and the opposition wasn't throwing out votes that
were against them.. I saw absolutely no voter fraud going on and to my
knowedge neither did any of the other DuPre poll watchers.