It has been alleged for years that Johnson captured his Senate seat through fraud, but the book, "Means of Ascent,", by Robert A. Caro, goes into great detail to tell how the future President overcame a 20,000-vote deficit to achieve his famous 87-vote victory in the 1948 Democratic runoff primary against a former Governor, Coke Stevenson. (Source: The New York Times, February 11, 1990.)

I don't have access to the book, and I couldn't find any other reference for those details, but in a news article published on Victoria Advocate.com, titled "Election Fraud Never So Flagrant As With LBJ's Box 13," it is written:

We still hear about election fraud today, but generally nothing quite so flagrantly evident as it was with Box 13. Not that he potential does not still exist for such, like recent reports in New York that there are some 77,000 people in that state's new database of registered voters who are deceased - some who are said to have somehow castes votes from the grave.

It is not always easy to understand just how that happen, but it does, as it did in 1948 in Texas.

It is clear that the string of words "as it did in 1948 in Texas" refers to deceased person who 'would have' voted in that election.

Therefore, the questions are: What was the influence of deceased people to the Johnson's election? Can they actually have led to his election?

  • 5
    This starts as a great question, but quickly spirals into a conspiracy theory. Just ask for the historical facts, there's absolutely no reason at all to interject your own hypothesis into the question, especially since you provide no references for it.
    – yannis
    Commented Jul 7, 2013 at 18:58
  • @YannisRizos I edited to make it more objective. Commented Jul 8, 2013 at 12:34
  • 1
    @Yannis, I removed the conspiracy part from the question, citing a source that says deceased person did vote!
    – user2237
    Commented Jul 8, 2013 at 13:44
  • 1
    Good enough for me. +1 and I hope the closevoters reconsider. Commented Jul 8, 2013 at 14:05
  • 1
    Much stronger. Yes. I will try to revoke my close vote.
    – MCW
    Commented Jul 8, 2013 at 14:22

1 Answer 1


This question really has two parts to it: 1) did votes "cast" by deceased voters give LBJ enough votes to push him past Stevenson; and 2) were the votes of deceased voters what led to LBJ winning the 1948 election.

The answer to the first question is unequivocally yes. Some number of deceased voters cast votes for LBJ which led to LBJ having more votes than Stevenson. Robert Caro even found the election judge for the infamous precinct 13 who admitted as much in an interview for the book "Means of Ascent." There are also sources who point out that Stevenson was procuring illegal votes as well.

The answer to the second question is a little trickier, but is probably yes and no. Caro and Robert Dallek's book "Lone Star Rising" deal with the contested votes, but as Texas lawyer Josiah Daniel argues Caro and Dallek don't do the litigation that occurred after the election justice.

Mr. Daniel went into detail in a law review article on the legal machinations that led to LBJ ultimately prevailing in the ensuing litigation. Mr. Daniel's article does an excellent job of explaining the legal arguments mustered by Stevenson and LBJ, as well as explaining how the litigation went from a state district court, to a federal district court, to a failed attempt at getting a mandamas (a fancy word for a court order) from the Texas Supreme Court, to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, and ultimately Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black.

The crux of the election came down to the motion to stay the proceedings before the federal district court before Justice Black which:

argues in six fairly succinct points that the trial court lacked jurisdiction because the dispute is, in essence, an “election contest under the laws of the State of Texas,” that Federal Courts have no jurisdiction to adjudicate the validity of certifications of the authorized officers of the State Democratic Party, that Johnson held a vested right to be certified as the nominee of the Democratic Party, that 28 U.S.C. § 1344 deprives Federal Courts of such jurisdiction, that the cause of action “does not arise under the laws of the United States and does not involve property or civil rights protected by the laws of the United States but relates only to political rights,” and that the subject matter lies solely within the jurisdiction of the United States Senate. The Motion also relies prominently on Sterling v. Ferguson. Finally, the Motion pleads that a stay “will in no way prejudice plaintiff’s rights if on final determination, it is held that the Federal Courts have jurisdiction to determine whether . . . Johnson’s name should appear on the official ballot.” Source.

So, yes, deceased voters contributed to LBJ's victory because they put him ahead in the final vote count, however, LBJ's lawyers ability to prevail in the ensuing litigation led to LBJ's election. As Daniel puts it "[t]he lawyering of the two teams did not produce any jurisprudential landmark. The significance for LBJ, however, was enormous; but for the legal victory, he would not have become U.S. Senator and then Vice President and President."

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