Apparently, Lincoln was the first United States President to experience mail-in ballot fraud. I ran across this little bit of forgotten history purely by accident while compiling notes for a future article on the “mail-in ballot” phenomenon of 2020. The article was over at The Washington Post written by Dustin Waters just a month ago. You can go here to read the article in it’s original format or just scroll down on your devise to read here. Enjoy – JMc
Mail-in ballots were part of a plot to deny Lincoln reelection in 1864 – Dustin Waters
The results of the 1864 elections would heavily affect the outcome of the war. Lincoln and his supporters in the National Union Party sought to continue the war and defeat the Confederacy outright. Meanwhile antiwar Democrats, also referred to as Copperheads, looked for an immediate compromise with the Confederate leaders and the end of the abolition movement.
Wood arrived at Fort McHenry in Baltimore to visit with the 91st New York Regiment. There, an Army captain suggested that there had been some “checker playing” when it came to the gathering of soldiers’ mail-in ballots. These suspicions of fraud were echoed when Wood visited wounded men at the Newton University Hospital. The rumors of wrongdoing led Wood to the office of Moses Ferry in Baltimore.
Ferry had been selected by New York Gov. Horatio Seymour to help oversee the voting process for New York’s enlisted men. Seymour had vetoed the initial bill to establish mail-in voting and would go on to run against Ulysses S. Grant in the 1868 presidential election.
Ferry told Wood that the votes from New York’s 91st Regiment had already been tallied: 400 for McClellan and 11 for Lincoln.
Wood returned to the office later and, following Ferry’s instructions, began forging signatures of the 16th New York Cavalry. Meanwhile, a clerk sat across the room signing ballots from the roster of names Wood had brought with him from home. Wood asked to personally deliver these fraudulent ballots, but Ferry said they would have to receive final approval from his colleague in Washington — Edward Donahue Jr.
Donahue soon arrived in Baltimore and met with Wood. It was revealed during this conversation that around 20 co-conspirators were already at work in D.C. to aid in the plot to deliver votes to McClellan. The following day Wood watched as Donahue and his crew formed a sort of assembly line, passing blank papers along to one another to be signed with the names of active enlisted men, wounded and dead soldiers, and officers who never existed.
In addition to operations in D.C. and Baltimore, the scheme extended back to New York. Donahue had received rosters of soldiers from military officials and members of law enforcement. A letter from Gen. J.A. Ferrell read, “Inclosed in this package you will find tickets, also a list of names of the actual residents of Columbia County, now members of the 128th Regiment. With my best wishes for your success.”
Also discovered in Ferry’s office was a list of around 400 names belonging to sick and wounded soldiers under treatment at a nearby hospital. In reference to the roster, Ferry joked, “Dead or alive, they all had cast a good vote.”
Ferry, Donahue, and their fellow conspirators found humor in their work. One accomplice mocked the outcry he expected from abolitionist newspapers following the corruption of the election. The men bragged about their past successes in fixing local elections back home.
Following the first day of the trial, a reporter for the New York Times wrote, “The honest electors of the state of New York have escaped an extensive and fearful fraud, a fraud in keeping with the proclivities of the party in whose behalf it was initiated, but one that, if unexposed might have subverted the honest will of the people and left the state and the nation at the mercy of those who would make peace with rebellion and fellowship with traitors.”
In the months following Lincoln’s victory — he won 221 electoral votes to McClellan’s 21 — anti-abolitionist newspapers attacked his legitimacy, calling the trial another aspect of a conspiracy conducted by the president to ensure his reelection.