No matter who wins or loses the various races in this year’s midterms, one thing is certain: Many of the losers are going to be convinced their opponents stole the election. Why? Partly because of history, and partly because of pop culture, which tells us that even the smallest of elections can be an occasion for the most depraved political skullduggery. Even scarier: If you go by the example set by film and TV, rigging an election often works (about half the time).
Warning: This post necessarily contains spoilers for all the movies and shows within. It’s extra-tricky, because to even tell you which shows and movies are on the list would … be a spoiler. Life is hard that way. So: Pause, reflect on the spoiler situation, and then make whatever choice is right for you.
The election: Class president, Election.
The candidates: Preternaturally perky overachiever Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon) is the frontrunner. She’s challenged by naïve jock Paul Metzler (Chris Klein), and Paul’s slacker sister Tammy enters the race as a dark-horse candidate.
The conspirators: There’s just one: high-school civics teacher Jim McAllister (Matthew Broderick), who nurses an obsessive grudge against Flick.
The plan: As low-tech as it gets. McAllister, who’s also the school’s election supervisor, simply throws away a couple of Flick ballots.
Did they get away with it? Nope. McAllister is undone after earning the ire of a janitor, who exposes the trashed ballots. He loses his job, and Tracy goes on to what we’re led to assume is a life of professional success.
The election: Student president of Roundview College, Skins
The candidates: Sexually confused snarker Naomi Campbell (not that one) and cheeky troublemaker James Cook.
The conspirators: Headmaster Harriet (Victoria Wicks) and biology teacher Doug, who fear the pandemonium a Cook presidency would bring.
The plan: As in Election, Skins proves it doesn’t take much to rig a high-school election: Doug and Harriet simply don’t count Cook’s ballots. Instead, they hide them in her bra. (It’s Skins, just go with it.)
Did they get away with it? Not at all. Naomi finds out about the plot and rips the ballots out of Harriet’s shirt during an assembly. As often happened on Skins, pandemonium ensues.
The election: President of the United States, Scandal
The candidates: Republican Fitzgerald “Fitz” Grant, golden-boy governor of California, and Democrat Samuel Reston, governor of Maryland and a real jerk.
The conspirators: Five Grant insiders who worry their man hasn’t quite got what it takes: his advisor/mistress, Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington); his chief of staff, Cyrus Beene; his wife, Mellie; energy lobbyist Hollis Doyle (Gregg Henry); and Verna Thornton, a random judge.
The plan: Without Fitz’s knowledge, the team rigs the voting machines in a pivotal Ohio county.
Did they get away with it? Basically. Fitz wins the election and becomes a (secretly terrible) president. He murders Verna after learning the truth, but she was already dying, so that hardly even counts.
The election: President of the 12 Colonies and de facto leader of the few remaining humans in existence, Battlestar Galactica.
The conspirators: Roslin’s assistant Tory, Petty Officer Dualla, and Col. Tigh, all of whom fear that Baltar’s plan to colonize a newly discovered planet will lead humanity into a trap.
The plan: With Roslin’s approval, Tory, Dualla, and Tigh produce fake voting results in one civilian ship.
Did they get away with it? Not really. The plan is quietly snuffed out by Admiral Adama (Edward James Olmos), who hands Baltar his rightful victory. As this leads directly to BSG’s fantastic New Caprica plotline, it was probably for the best.
The election: Mayor of Atlantic City, Boardwalk Empire
The candidates: Republican business magnate Ed Bader and Democratic reformer D.W. Fletcher.
The conspirators: Atlantic County treasurer/secret gangster Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi) and the rest of his political machine.
The plan: When the usual ballot-stuffing doesn’t work, Nucky also bribes Chalky White (Michael K. Williams) into delivering the black vote for the Republicans.
Did they get away with it? Kind of. Bader wins the election, but Nucky’s battle against charges of election fraud is a major plotline the following season. The charges are dropped after his brother Eli takes the fall.
The election: Illinois gubernatorial primary, Boss
The candidates: Hotshot state treasurer Ben Zajac and incumbent McCall Cullen.
The conspirators: Chicago mayor Tom Kane (Kelsey Grammer), the titular Boss, who decides to take down Cullen for nebulously explained reasons.
The plan: Kane employs a full bag of Nixonian dirty tricks to prevent Cullen supporters from voting, directing them to phony polling places and (gasp!) stealing their lawn signs.
Did they get away with it? Yes, but since it was Boss, very few people cared.