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A hotly contested judge’s seat leads to voter fraud

Willa Soncarty

Citizens of Garfield County ardently supported their political candidates, Republican or Democrat. In a time when there were no sound bites and no political advertising, the newspapers were the voters’ information source.During the weeks leading up to the November 1888 election, one local race garnered the attention of the press. The seat of district judge, held by Democrat Thomas Rucker, was hotly challenged by Republican James Hodges. Candidate Hodges had contended during the political race that Judge Rucker was soft on criminals. In reply, Rucker’s record was defended in the Ute Chief newspaper.At a polling place located on Eighth Street between Pitkin and Colorado avenues, men arrived on Nov. 6, 1888, to cast their votes. On that day, Henry Arny was at the entrance waiting to sway voter opinion. Arny had a fistful of dollars, supplied by James Hodges, to assist in the persuasion.In 1888, a voter selected one of two available ballots – Republican or Democrat – and slipped the ballot into a glass ballot box. If a person on the ballot was not acceptable, the voter lined through the name. There were no private polling booths, so Arny was able to observe if the votes he bought were cast Republican.Hodges won the election. However, days later Arny was arrested for voter fraud, turned in by four county deputies whose votes he attempted to buy at two dollars each. The fraudulent victory of James Hodges was overturned, and Judge Rucker retained his seat on the bench. (Correction: In last week’s Frontier Diary, Charles Darrow was credited with owning the property purchased for the Garfield County High School site. The property was actually owned by Richard Bolles, with the transaction brokered by Darrow.)”Frontier Diary” is provided to the Post Independent by the Frontier Historical Society and Museum, 1001 Colorado Ave., Glenwood Springs. Winter hours are 1-4 p.m. Mondays, and Thursdays through Saturdays.”Frontier Diary” is provided to the Post Independent by the Frontier Historical Society and Museum, 1001 Colorado Ave., Glenwood Springs. Winter hours are 1-4 p.m. Mondays, and Thursdays through Saturdays.


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