Zebulon B. Vance Indulged in Voter Manipulation Tactics during the Gubernatorial Election of 1864
In North Carolina’s 1864 gubernatorial elections between Governor Zebulon B. Vance and William W. Holden, Vance promoted strong intimidation tactics in order to scare Holden’s supporters into voting for Vance on election day. It is also interesting that Vance seemed to stumble into this tactic as his “friend” intercepted a secret circular of Holden’s North Carolina Standard newspaper, which urged Holden’s supporters to fold their ballots so that their fellow citizens could not see who they were voting for. (Vance, July 13, 1864) With this news, Vance spread the word through his Weekly Conservative newspaper for the “friends of Gov. Vance” to be aware of the “Holdenites” who voted with a folded ballot, demeaning anyone who did not have the countenance to vote with an open ticket.
With inspiration from the taste of voter manipulation brought upon by Holden’s misfortune, Vance continued to search for ways to distinguish his supporters from Holden’s at the ballot box. On August 3, 1864, Vance acknowledged that he had printed his ballots on “pale chrome yellow” colored paper in order to set his tickets apart from his opponent. Meanwhile, in an attempt to prevent this distinction, Holden tried to use the law to force Vance to print on white tickets so that no voter manipulation could dissuade voters; then, when legislature failed to interfere, Holden began printing his tickets on buff-colored paper, followed by a “deep chrome yellow” colored paper in an attempt to match Vance’s ballots. (Vance, August 3, 1864)
Responding to Holden’s eclectic ballot colors, Vance made the bold declaration that no man would be injured should his colleagues discover he was voting for Holden in the election; therefore, Holden’s fears were unwarranted. However, within Vance’s supposed consolation, he labeled Holden as a treasonous secessionist, who was unworthy of being the Governor of North Carolina. Furthermore, Vance’s extreme assertion that no harm would befall an individual who voted for Holden seems strangely out of place when contrasted with the level of fear that Holden’s supporters displayed by spending the money to keep switching ticket colors, especially within the context of the violence during the Civil War.
Vance, Zebulon Baird. "Another Change in Color." Weekly Conservative (Raleigh), Aug. 3, 1864. Microfilm.
---. "Secret Circular." Weekly Conservative (Raleigh), July 13, 1864, Microfilm.
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