A Look at the Infamous Ballot Box 13 Documents

It is arguably one of the most consequential political events in American history, and now the historical documents that help tell the story of what happened will be preserved for future generations: the infamous Box 13 case out of Jim Wells County.

The results of Box 13 from the senatorial Democratic primary runoff election race in August of 1948, between Lyndon Baines Johnson and Coke Robert Stevenson, was the deciding factor in that election and arguably altered the course of history. As for the controversy surrounding those results, on Sept. 3, some six days after the polls had closed, 202 additional ballots in precinct 13 were discovered that had not been counted.

"Of those votes, 201 went for LBJ, and one was for Stevenson, so I think it's very clear what happened in that box," said R. David Guerrero, district clerk of Jim Wells County.

Those 201 votes gave LBJ the victory over Stevenson, and the rest is history. The results made headlines nationwide, as there were allegations of fraud. A petition for injunction and temporary restraining order was quickly filed, but ultimately the results from precinct 13 did stand, and LBJ remained the winner.

While the documents from the legal battle over the results are still around, the whereabouts of the infamous ballot box remains a mystery.

"It was never entered as an exhibit," Guerrero said. "It would not be in our possession, but I've asked several people about it, and it's believed that the Rangers took custody of it, and it was actually never returned to Jim Wells County."

Because of the historical significance of the court documents surrounding the Box 13 results, they have been put in protective sheets and put in a protective binder. Up until now, the case documents were filed in a letter-sized envelope, but now the documents will no longer be held or handled by human hands.

It should be noted that, after LBJ won this controversial election, he went on to become the senate majority leader, and then vice president, after helping John F. Kennedy carry Texas and win the 1960 presidential election. He then, of course, went on to become president after the assassination of JFK.

LBJ went on to play a consequential role in the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War, among other historical events; but the course of history may have been different, without the votes of Box 13.


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