Philadelphia Mayor Freeland Kendrick and William Vare in 1927

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Unfounded claims of fraud in Philadelphia’s 2020 election have been disproven several times over. But a century ago, the city saw an actual voting scandal.

In the 1920s, a trio of brothers known as the “Dukes of South Philadelphia” dominated city politics as Republicans. One of them, William Scott Vare, ran for U.S. Senate and won — but his victory was clouded by allegations of tampering.

As a Philadelphia Bulletin headline from January 1927 explained, authorities seized ballots from Philly and Pittsburgh, and launched a deep investigation. The Senate refused to seat Vare, who claimed he was being targeted by elite progressives because of his working-class background.

In the middle of it all, the senator-elect had a debilitating stroke. He would never recover.

As the race for U.S. senator from Pa. heats up again, scroll through the thread below to read how it unfolded nearly 100 years ago.

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Avi Wolfman-Arent

Avi Wolfman-Arent is co-host of Studio 2 and a broadcast anchor on 90.9 FM. He was previously an education reporter with WHYY, where he's worked since 2014. Prior to that he covered nonprofits for the...