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Unorthodox Selection of CSA Electors

September 19, 2019

For those interested in the Civil War and Lincoln-era politics, ballots issued for Jefferson Davis are worthy of study. The newly-formed Confederate government selected Jefferson Davis and Alexander Stephens as Provisional President & Vice-President prior to an election. They were inaugurated in the first Confederate capital, Montgomery, Alabama. In order to validate the process, a presidential election was held across the South on Wednesday, November 6, 1861. Davis & Stephens ran unopposed. They were later inaugurated a second time in the new capital, Richmond.

Within the last several months, your Editor was able to acquire two ballots from this election that were used in different Congressional districts in Texas. They are very rare and may, in fact, be unique. They display several unusual characteristics. The smaller ballot misspells Stephens’s name. The larger ballot uses the familiar “Jeff. Davis” in identifying the Presidential candidate. But, much more importantly, the slate of Presidential Electors has the name of fifteen candidates, rather than the eight electors that the state was entitled to. The voter was asked to cross out the names of unwanted electors, leaving eight. This is the only instance we have seen where voters could “pick and choose” among a list of competing candidates for the largely ceremonial office of Presidential Elector. Three of the names on the smaller ballot do not appear on the larger ballot. How did other districts handle this? Was there any effort at coordination? Typically, a single, uniform slate of electors was chosen at a statewide convention prior to the election. Of course, the final result was a foregone conclusion with Davis & Stephens receiving 100% of the electoral votes. If districts could not “get together” on a simple thing like a slate of electors, it did not bode well for future endeavors.

Currently, your Editor has examples of Confederate ballots from six Southern states. He knows of examples from Mississippi and Florida, but has not seen any from Alabama, Arkansas or South Carolina, so completing the collection for all eleven states will be a daunting task.