Clark County, Ohio

History and Genealogy



Incidents Attending Elections Under Former Laws


From 20th Century History of Springfield and Clark County, Ohio by Hon. William A. Rockel
Chicago: Biographical Publishing Co., 1908


Casting our ballots now under the provisions of the law known as the Australian Ballot Law, we hardly realize the methods formerly in use in the conduct of elections.

Not many years ago the ballots representing the candidates of the various parties, which were then gotten out by the parties or candidates themselves, were of a different style. Sometimes decorated with the photo of the individual candidate, and so made that judges of election might easily determine the partyism of the ticket from its characteristics. This was by law changed in order to prevent fraud and all tickets were required to be printed on the same kind of paper, but the parties themselves took charge of the printing and distribution of the tickets.

An exciting time was usually had in selecting judges to conduct the election, for upon their decision might depend the results of the ballots.

The Board of Election officers were selected and organized on the morning of the election, and whichever party could insure the presence of the largest number of adherents at the time the polls were opened, was in a position to select the judges. So there was quite a spirited contest in getting a number present at the opening of the polls. They would line up in separate ranks, a count would be taken of those present at that time, and the majority would choose the election officers. This method, of parties taking charge of the election in this way and printing their own ballots, gave ample opportunity for the opposition to claim fraud.

As an example showing what might happen, the writer knows of an all-night ride to correct an apparent mistake in the ballot. On the night before the election, somewhere between ten o'clock and midnight, it was discovered that the name of the supreme judge had been mis-spelled, and the party managers were afraid that this might affect his election. So new ballots were printed and these were ordered distributed throughout the county. The writer took the route leading north through Moorefield Township, leaving some of the ballots at John Sultzbaugh's, on the Urbana Pike, who was then a judge of election of Moorefield Township, and then proceeded on up to Tremont and left those for that precinct with Dr. Frank Reigel; thence to Lawrenceville, where E. G. Coffin then resided, rousing him from his morning slumbers; and thence to North Hampton, arriving there before the polls had opened at six o'clock in the morning. Under the present system such occurrences necessarily are avoided.

Until 1885 the state and county elections were held in October, and whenever a president or members of Congress were to be elected we had two elections in the fall, one in November and one in October, and until 1905 all municipal and township officers were elected in April of each year. In 1904 the spring elections were abolished, and all officers were chosen at the fall election held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.

In 1906 another change went into effect, and now state and county officers are elected in the even-numbered years, and city and township officers in the odd-numbered years.







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