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Memoir of an election crusader

 

Waiting for the Cemetery Vote
  • Tom Glaze: An eyewitness to voting history.

This week, the Times is pleased to run an excerpt from retired Supreme Court Justice Tom Glaze's new book from the University of Arkansas Press, "Waiting for the Cemetery Vote." It's a memoir that focuses on Glaze's long work to end election fraud in Arkansas.

Times' columnist Ernest Dumas collaborated with Glaze in the writing of the book. And the book is sprinkled liberally with the work of the late George Fisher, who became the Times' editorial cartoonist after the death of the Arkansas Gazette.

No book on Arkansas election fraud would be complete without tales from Conway County, where the legendary Sheriff Marlin Hawkins raised election chicanery almost to an art form, if of the dark political arts. And Glaze was in the thick of that sometimes violent battle. But it also includes a rousing account of 19th century vote fraud, to set the stage for what was to come.

As the UA Press catalogue notes: "Glaze describes the manipulation of absentee ballots and poll-tax receipts; votes cast by the dead, children, and animals; forgeries of ballots from nursing homes; and threats to body or livelihood made to anyone who would dare question these activities or monitor elections. Deceptive practices used to control election results were disturbingly brazen in the gubernatorial elections in the 1960s and were especially egregious in Conway and Searcy Counties in the 1970s and in special elections for the state Senate in Faulkner, Conway, and Van Buren Counties. "A clean-election movement began in the early 1970s, led not by party or political leaders but by individual citizens. These vigilant and courageous Arkansans undertook to do what their public institutions persistently failed to: insure that elections for public office were honest and that the will of the people was scrupulously obliged."

Glaze, who served 22 years on the Supreme Court, closes on a somewhat down note, with accounts of modern-day voting problems and political corruption that reached into the court system during his Supreme Court days.

But there's little doubt that things have improved from many situations Glaze observed, including in our excerpt, the open buying of votes in Searcy County. There it was a bipartisan pastime.

The paperback is now in bookstores. It costs $19.95.

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