As Long As I Count the Votes, What Are You Going To Do About It?

William Marcy Tweed? Boss Tweed? Thomas Nast? Zack Chandler? Napoleon Bonaparte? Joseph Stalin? Boris Bazhanov? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Remarks about the manipulation of vote tabulations have a long history. Apparently, a corrupt leader made a cynical pronouncement about voting. Here are three versions:

  • Let me count the votes, and I care not who casts them.
  • It’s not who votes that matters but who counts the votes.
  • Those who cast the votes decide nothing. Those who count the votes decide everything.

Would you please explore this family of sayings?

Quote Investigator: The viewpoint of this saying can be expressed in many different ways which makes it difficult to trace.

The earliest match known to QI appeared in October 1871 within a single-panel work by influential cartoonist Thomas Nast depicting politician William Marcy Tweed standing next to a ballot box. Tweed was known by the nickname Boss Tweed because of his political power and wealth. Nast titled his cartoon “THAT’S WHAT’S THE MATTER”, and he placed the following derisive words into the mouth of Tweed. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

Boss Tweed. “As long as I count the Votes, what are you going to do about it? say?”

It is unlikely that Tweed actually made this statement because it implied that his political operatives planned to illegally modify the election results. Instead, Thomas Nast should receive credit for crafting this remark.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading As Long As I Count the Votes, What Are You Going To Do About It?

Notes:

  1. 1871 October 7, Harper’s Weekly, Cartoon title: “That’s What’s the Matter”, (Caption of one panel cartoon by Thomas Nast), Quote Page 944, Column 1, Harper & Brothers, New York. (Google Books Full View) link