Rigging Elections in 472 BCE

Sudan’s President Omar al Bashir was declared the winner of the recent elections — elections in which there were widespread allegations of fraud. One of the videos which surfaced on the Internet appeared to show election officials stuffing ballot boxes. In 472 BCE, there was no YouTube, but we have evidence of possible vote rigging in Athens.

A cache of almost 200 ostraka has been found down a well in Athens, each with the name “Themistocles” written on them (in a limited number of hands; they’re pictured at the top of this post). It’s a clear hint that the system was manipulable. “Get your Themistocles ostrakon here” someone must have been shouting — or, given the illiteracy of much of the Athenian people, “Get your Cimon ostrakon here” — and you actually got a Themistocles ostrakon, without realising it.[WBLG: A three-cornered election: the ancient Athenian solution]

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