Detecting Fraud in America’s Gilded Age

Working Paper No.: 
Date Published: 
Gail Buttorff
University of Iowa

Abstract: This paper extends recent developments in election forensics to test for electoral fraud during a period of American history widely suspected to be ripe with fraud. It uses the second-digit Benford’s Law test in an effort to identify possible instances of election fraud during the Gilded Age—an era of highly competitive party politics. The study focuses on presidential and gubernatorial elections in Southern US states during the period from 1872 to 1896. The empirical results corroborate some of the extant historical anecdotes of electoral fraud during this period.

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