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Douglas ballot 1860

  • Democratic Party ballot for Stephen A. Douglas 1860
A copy of one of the 1860 Stephen A. Douglas ballots printed for voters to cast in Virginia.
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Democratic Party ballot for Stephen A. Douglas 1860

"National Democratic Ticket, for Virginia. For President, Stephen A. Douglas, of Illinois. For Vice-president, Herschel V. Johnson, of Georgia ... : Election, the 6th Day of November, 1860," Broadside, Small Special Collections, University of Virginia.

The Democratic Party split in two in 1860, and the group sometimes described as the Northern Democrats chose Stephen A. Douglas, a United States senator from Illinois. Douglas proposed a policy of popular sovereignty to allow voters in a territory to decide whether slavery would be legal there. Although the party platform affirmed the right of the Supreme Court to determine Congress's constitutional power over slavery in the territories, Southerners feared that popular sovereignty would result in antislavery legislation in territories or new states. The platform also called for the acquisition of Cuba and a transcontinental railroad.

Douglas and his vice presidential candidate, Herschel V. Johnson, formerly governor of Georgia, received almost 30 percent of the popular vote in 1860, but won electoral votes only in Missouri and New Jersey and placed a distant third in Virginia. The vote totals published in the Daily Richmond Enquirer on December 24, 1860, show that Stephen A. Douglas received 16,292 votes (9.74 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.