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Italy is without doubt a democratic country, and has been that way since the end of WWII. Every citizen over 18 has the right to vote, and his choice is supposed to be "free, personal and secret".

They can choose the party they like, and the names of one or more candidates associated with that party.

The laws are not bulletproof though, and there are several ways to meddle with the results of local elections. A shady politician just needs the right kind of friends...

Cast of characters (in order of years they'd spend in jail):

Method 1: Goody Two Shoes

The first democratic elections were held shortly after WWII, in a country whose scars were still fresh; since good shoes were hard to come by, Don Vito made a generous gift to the voters of his district: he distributed hundreds of shoes. Only left shoes, mind you. The voters were told that they would receive the right shoe only if Mr. Brambilla was elected.

Note: Mr. Achille Lauro is widely credited with the invention of this trick.

Method 2: The Domino Principle

Recently I've done my civic duty as a ballot Counter. Before the election starts we have to count the blank ballots, stamp them, re-count them, sign them and count them again. Once stamped and signed, a ballot becomes "hot" and if you lose track of even a single one you are, technically speaking, in deep shit.

This is why: Don Vito instructs Paulie to volunteer as a ballot Counter (there is an open list of available Counters in every district; you just have to register). Paulie manages to sneak a hot ballot out of the room (this is not as hard as it seems) and gives it to Don Vito. The missing ballot causes horrible amounts of paperwork, but little else.

When the election starts, Don Vito puts a cross on the stolen ballot and gives it to one of his neighbours, along with the usual offer that can't be refused. The poor chap goes to vote; as soon as he is behind the curtain he takes out Don Vito's ballot and pockets the blank one that he's just received from the Counters. When he comes back home he gives the blank ballot to Don Vito, who repeats the last steps and thus gets to vote a thousand times. Shortly before the end of the election, Don Vito gives the last blank ballot to Paulie, who manages to "find" it in front of his colleagues.

Note: this method is described in a Gabriele Salvatores' movie, "Sud".

Method 3: Nokia, Connecting People

In this age of high technology, the previous method has been greatly simplified by cellular phones that can take snapshots. Just outside the voting room, Clemenza gives one of those gadgets to the voters, telling them that they really want to take a snapshot of the voted ballot. When they exit, they give the phone back to Clemenza, who checks the photo to see if Don Vito is happy.

Note: there's a law against bringing those phones into a voting stall; the X-ray goggles needed to enforce it are eagerly expected any decade now.

Method 4: Noughts and Crosses

After every election there is the usual amount of ballots that have been cast blank. All the ballots of a district are stored in a not-so-closely guarded warehouse. Tessio puts the severed head of a horse under the sheets of some unlucky county clerk who has access to the warehouse, telling him to take all the blank ballots and make hard-to-see crosses on them. The next day mr. Brambilla asks for a recount.

Note: I don't know if this method has ever been used; it's technically possible but risky. Used by Daniele Luchetti in his movie "Il Portaborse".

Method 5: Combinatorics for the Mob

Remember the preferences that a voter can write on the ballot? Before the election, Don Vito calls his various minions and asks each one of them to provide a handful of votes. Paulie, Clemenza, Tessio and the others employ the usual techniques to convince people, and they instruct their victims to express their preferences in a prearranged order - a different list of names for each minion. This way the ballots can be identified: candidates A, B and C indicate one of Tessio's voters; B, D and A is one of Clemenza's and so on. If a minion fails to meet his quota, all of his victims learn the hard way that it's best not to upset Don Vito.

Note: party watchers can supervise the counting operations, and they can take very detailed notes.

I'll sign off now, before I yield to the temptation of cracking jokes about the Florida recounts...

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