Democratic Party ballot for John C. Breckinridge 1860
"Democratic ticket: Our Principles, the Constitution.... For President John C. Breckinridge, of Kentucky. For Vice President Joseph Lane of Oregon," 1860, Broadside, 1860 .D38 BOX, Special Collections, Library of Virginia.
The Democratic Party split in two in 1860. John C. Breckinridge, vice president of the United States, became the presidential nominee of the faction sometimes referred to as the Southern Democrats. The party advocated the expansion of slavery into the territories and strong enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850. The party's platform further affirmed the right of the federal government to protect the rights of slaveholders in the states and territories. The platform also called for the annexation of Cuba and the construction of a transcontinental railroad.
A Kentucky native, Breckinridge believed that slavery should be constitutionally protected and that Southern states had the right to secede. His running mate, Joseph Lane, represented the Oregon Territory in the United States House of Representatives and also approved of the expansion of slavery into the territories. Breckinridge and Lane won most of the slave states, but finished a close second in Virginia, where the presidential election was the closest in its history. The vote totals published in the Daily Richmond Enquirer on December 24, 1860, show that John C. Breckinridge received 74,379 votes (44.46 percent) in Virginia.
In 1860 and 1861, voting was viva voce, or by voice vote. Voters announced out loud for whom they voted in the presence of everyone there. In presidential elections only, voters also handed in ballots containing the names of candidates for presidential elector, and they signed the back of the ballots in order that a ballot could be removed if a voter's eligibility was successfully challenged. Throughout the state, newspaper editors and printing offices printed ballots, or tickets, for voters to take to their polling places.