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Constitutional Union Party ballot 1860

Union or Secession
  • Constitutional Union Party ballot 1860
A copy of one of the 1860 John Bell ballots printed for voters to cast in Virginia.
Related documents:
  • Breckinridge ballot 1860
    Democratic Party ballot for John C. Breckinridge 1860
  • Douglas ballot 1860
    Democratic Party ballot for Stephen A. Douglas 1860
  • Republican ballot 1860
    Republican ballot 1860
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Constitutional Union Party ballot 1860

"Union Electoral Ticket. State of Virginia. The Union, the Constitution, and the Enforcement of the Laws. For president, John Bell, of Tennessee, for vice-president, Edward Everett of Massachusetts," 1860, Broadside, 1860 .U63a BOX, Special Collections, Library of Virginia.

Americans feared that the fight over slavery would divide the country. In May 1860 a group of former Whigs, whose national party had collapsed during the previous decade, organized the Constitutional Union Party. John Bell, a former United States senator from Tennessee, was nominated as its presidential candidate and Edward Everett, a former U.S. senator from Massachusetts, as its vice presidential nominee. The Constitutional Union Party adopted only one plank for its platform that stressed the primacy of the Constitution, the Union, and enforcement of laws, but did not specify how to achieve its goal of preserving the Union and stood for little but calmer heads and a compromise.

Bell carried Tennessee and Kentucky and eked out a victory in Virginia, where he narrowly won the state's fifteen electoral votes, defeating Breckinridge by fewer than 350 votes. The vote totals published in the Daily Richmond Enquirer on December 24, 1860, show that Bell received 74,701 votes (44.65 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.