Ballots for the election of 1860 were not printed or approved by any government office or nonpartisan group. Instead, political parties were responsible for producing and distributing their own ballots for election day. As a result, voters had to be careful to ensure that they received a legitimate ballot. One only has to read some of the editorials published before election day to see that fraud was a serious concerns in some parts of the country. If a voter failed to closely examine their ballot, they could end up voting for a different party than they intended.
The Raleigh (NC) Register, a Democratic newspaper, revealed one such “scheme:” “tickets [would have] the caption on them of Douglas and Johnson, but following that will be the Breckinridge and Lane electors.” Political operatives who became involved in these plans only had to find a printer who was willing to create the ballots. “Bribing engravers to engrave the Republican ticket, to violate their pledge of private and professional honor, and make a counterfeit of it, [was] one of their devices,” as the Republican Chicago (IL) Tribune explained. While “read[ing] your ballot before…deposit[ing] it in the box” remained important, one editor also noted that the best way for voters to avoid any problems was simply to not take a ballot from someone they did not know. “The only way to be entirely secure is to take no ballot except from one whom you know to be a regular republican distributor,” as the Boston (MA) Advertiser observed.