by Charles F. Sullivan
My Father was a republican and since he believed in good government, and there were five boys in the family, he had us ready to vote for the candidates we thought most capable to fill the office, regardless of which party ticket he was running upon.
Very early in life, I remember being up town to see a torch light procession and seeing it from a window of a building occupying the ground now occupied by the Electric building. It was customary for all parades in this city, to go north upon the east side of Main street and turn at the bridge and return on the west side, so all marchers were able to see the entire parade, as they passed each other upon opposite sides of the street. It was customary to give each marcher a cap and cape of oil cloth in bright colors usually red, white and blue and this was necessary, for each one also carried a torch and was likely to have kerosine spilled upon him by himself or another. This made a very pretty uniform and distinguished one ward from another. The torches used at that time were shaped much like the flares used upon construction work, and were pivoted upon a handle, so each marcher rested one against his shoulder. These processions were supposed to tell which candidates were the strongest, by the number of marchers in the parade. In those days we did not have the telephone and radio to give us the results of the election, but most men would go up town after the election and read the bulletins in front of the newspaper offices until midnight or after. If the news was favorable to one side the boys for that side would hustle around and find boxes, barrels, or anything else that would burn and make a bon-fire in front of the old Courthouse and the flames would rise higher than its roof. At that time there were no paved streets, so no damage was done. Legler Barlow & Co. had a wholesale house between the Courthouse and Second street and in the rear was a large warehouse and to it we went first and after cleaning up there, went elsewhere.
In the Hayes & Tilden campaign of 1876, you probably know there was quite a dissension as to who was elected, and it came up to the House of Representatives, who decided that Hayes was elected by a vote 185 to 184. Several evenings during this time, I was up town and everything would be quiet until after 10 P.M. when a rumor was started and the victorious side would start a bon-fire and the police never made any objection to it. This election was not decided until almost inauguration day, and the uncertainty made excuse for bad business.
I think it was during the Garfield campaign that an excursion train was run to Troy to swell the crowd in a torch-light procession.
I think the train carried twelve coaches all filled to capacity, picking up a lot of people at Tipp City. At Troy we marched all over town, and I did not think we missed many streets of that town.
As Piqua and Sidney were represented in it, there was a long parade and the different uniforms made it very pretty.
Bringing up the rear was an old steam traction engine, drawing a Conestoga wagon filled with Piqua people, and I wondered how that engine could have pulled that load down there so far from home.
When I became of age and went to the polls to cast my first vote, my head was swelled to the bursting point. I went to the republican man upon the walk outside and took a ticket from him, handed it to the judge at the window and gave my name and it was all over.
I walked away from there, with my head so contracted, that I wondered if it was me? I was much disappointed that my vote was not challenged, or at least that they would question me.
A few years after this the Australian system of voting came into use and I was appointed registrar for the precinct near Third and Perry. One man came in to register, aged about 70, yet he gave his age as 40, although everyone knew that he was much older.
I questioned his statement, and he replied that it was no one’s business how old he was, and as the democratic registrar did not say anything about it, I let it pass.
To train the people to vote by the Australian system, a lawyer was appointed to do the job for several weeks in a tent upon the Courthouse lawn. At the election, he came into our booth, for he lived in the precinct and was given a ticket to fill out, soon he called for another ballot because he had made an error and he was the only one to make a mistake in our booth that day.
The Australian system has proven itself to be much better than the old system, where each party printed its own ballots, but it is far from perfect, but the great trouble with it is the human equation, for the humans who are in charge of the election system will not allow it to be worked honestly. It reminds me of the old saying that “Figures don’t lie but liars do figure” and in this case it would work fine if the humans who operate it did not make money out of making crooked returns for the election. With the old system if you placed your ticket in the box as given to you, it was a straight ticket, but if you wanted to vote for a man upon the other ticket, you would scratch his name out and write the wanted name in the place and from this we have the expression of a scratched ticket.
The old style of primaries was very poor, for it was published that a certain primary was to be held at a certain time and place and any one was welcome to come there, and whether a resident or not would vote and probably as the bosses paid him to vote.
A candidate would ask all his friends to come and vote for him at the primary, and when it was organized, the politician would be chairman and run things to suit himself, regardless of any opposition, and nominate the candidate that suited him. The same thing held true at a convention and the politicians did just what pleased them, without any chance of getting into trouble about it.
Under the present system, every voter should go to the polls at the primaries, where he has a chance to select the nominees for the election, but the majority do not realize the importance of it and do not vote. As a consequence, the political chairman of each party, appoints the candidate for the democratic and republican county central committee, for no one makes an effort without first getting the sanction of the bosses, so his appointment on the primary ticket amounts to his election. Here is the reason for it. There are 353 voting precincts in the county and as each chairman appoints a judge, registrar and clerk to serve at the booths (3 people pledged to do his bidding) and each one has a number of relatives and friends, say six and his own makes 7 votes for the candidates selected by Brower and Horstman, and this means 2471 votes controlled by them in the county. Is it any wonder that no one wants to run for the committee without the blessing of the chairman? Now when this committee is elected, each chairman, appoints another person of the opposite sex to serve upon that committee, and when this committee organizes, they appoint the successors to these two men, is it hard to see why these two men are continued as chairmen? If these men had what they deserve, they would have been in the penitentiary for many years, but they are so slick, that what we know to be true cannot be proven before officials who are under obligation to the chairmen for their election.
In early years we had an election in the spring and another in October and the presidential in November, and first the two state elections were merged and later all were held with the presidential election, Tuesday after the first Monday in November.
Chas. F. Sullivan
40 Glenwood Dayton, Ohio