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Working with Voting Records

Overview

The Tufts Digital Library contains a collection of voting record objects. These records document election returns from the early history of the United States of America, from 1788 to 1825. The data for these records has been collected by Philip Lampi and were digitized under a generous grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The project page has additional details.

Each voting records represents a single election. For the purposes of this project, an election is defined as an event consisting of the casting of votes in a particular place, at a particular time in order to elect a particular person or persons for a particular office. Tie-breakers, special elections, and multiple iterations of a vote are all considered separate elections.

Voting Record Layout

When viewing a voting record, you will see the title of the record at the top. The title should identify the place, the office and the date for which the election is being held. Underneath the title you will see a table. The top row of the table will contain the candidates for the election. Below the candidates are listed their party affiliations, if known.

Below the candidates and their affiliations is a row labeled "Final Result". This includes the total number of votes for each candidate, if known. Below the final result row you will find a detailed breakdown of the election results. The level of detail varies depending on the complexity of the voting districts and the amount of available data. In all cases, the name of a geographic region will appear in the leftmost column, and a listing of results for each candidate in that region will appear in the other columns. Sometimes, data is available for sub-regions. The data for sub- regions will appear immediately following the larger region.

Under the table of results will be the text of any footnotes appearing in the table, a list of references, and a list of election data source images. Notes may consist of excerpts from primary source materials or editorial notes, generally made by Mr. Lampi. "References" refer to the newspapers and manuscripts that originally reported the election returns at the time of the election to contemporaries. "Election data source images" refer to the scanned images of Mr Lampi’s notes and transcriptions. These page images are also available from the Digital Library. The original notes are housed at the American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, Massachusetts.

To cite these pages or voting record data on this site, please use the following citation:

Lampi Collection of American Electoral Returns, 1788-1825. American Antiquarian Society, 2006.

Candidates

These are the names of those running for public office as written on the ballots. Often voting was done by party ballots and an individual or legislature would vote for all candidates running under a particular party. Ballots were not pre-printed in this time period. Those voting had to cast their votes by writing out the name of the party or person running for office.

Within this system there was room for error and there may be two candidates listed in this section with the same name spelled slightly differently. In most cases, these two candidates were actually the same person but this person was unable to receive votes from ballots with misspellings.

Affiliations

The followers of Thomas Jefferson almost always referred to themselves as Republicans. However, the Federalists almost always called them Democrats. In addition the Republicans were also called, Anti-Federalists, Whigs, Jacobins,etc.

The Republicans likewise often called the Federalist by other names. Tories, Aristocrats, Monarchist, etc.

When reporting election returns, Republican newspapers would almost always classified their candidates as Republicans. However, a Federalist newspaper while reporting the same election returns would list those same candidates under the term Democrats or Democratic.

Republican newspapers used various names for the Federalist election tickets and the parties themselves used a variety of labels. But in essence there were only two parties during this time period. Republican and Federalist.

After the war of 1812 there was a gradual shift among the Republicans to use the term Democrat or Democratic.

Certain terms were considered to be derogatory and were used by both parties to lessen the appeal of the opposition among the voting public. Chief among these terms were: Democrat, Jacobin, Aristocratic, Monarchist and Tory.

One term that was not used by either party during this time period was the infamous label Democratic-Republican. Neither the followers of Thomas Jefferson nor the Federalist used this term. It was invented by historians because they could not come to any decisions about which term should be used to describe the party of Thomas Jefferson. I use the name that they themselves preferred, that of Republican.

-Phil Lampi

Final Result

This is the total number of votes for a particular voting jurisdiction. Often the total is not known because returns are not available. For example, a county election may have returns from three out of five towns. Because two of the towns are missing it is impossible to know the total number of votes for the county. If you have additional information that is not included in our data, please contact Philip Lampi.