Laws Governing the 1845 Election

When officials in Tallahassee received word in March 1845 that Congress had admitted Florida to statehood, one of their first tasks was to define the rules for holding an election to choose the state's first legislative and executive officers. The resulting laws were two of the final acts passed by Florida's territorial legislature before it was dissolved.

These laws outline the legal requirements for both voters and officials participating in the election. The first act spells out the qualifications for voting, the format for the election returns, qualifications and duties of local election officials, and the procedure for counting and certifying the votes. The second act stipulates penalties for voter fraud.



No. I.  An ACT to facilitate the Organization of the State of Florida.

Whereas, it is believed that the State of Florida has been admitted into the National Confederacy by law, at the session Preamble, of Congress just terminated under the Constitution framed at St. Joseph, and ratified and adopted by the people of Florida in 1839 ; And whereas, by the provisions of said Constitution, and the schedule and ordinance contained in article XVII thereof, it is declared that, "immediately after official information shall have been received that Congress have approved the Constitution, and provided for the admission of Florida, the President of this Convention shall issue writs of election to the proper officers in the different counties, enjoining them to cause an election to be held for Governor, Representative in Congress, and members of the General Assembly, in each of their respective counties. The election shall be held on the first Monday after the lapse of sixty days, following the day of the date of the President's proclamation, and shall take place on the same day throughout the State. The said election shall be conducted according to the then existing election laws of the Territory of Florida: Provided, however, that in case of the absence, or disability of the President of the Convention to cause the said election to be carried into effect, the Secretary of this Convention shall discharge the duties hereby imposed upon the President ; and in case of the absence, or disability of the Secretary, a committee of five, to wit: Leigh Reid, George T. Ward, James D. Westcott, Jr., Thomas Brown and Leslie A. Thompson, or a majority of them shall discharge the duties herein imposed on the Secretary of the Convention; and the members of the General Assembly so, elected, shall assemble on the fourth Monday thereafter at the seat of Government. The Governor, Representative in Congress and members of the General Assembly, shall enter upon the duties of their respective offices immediately after their election under the provisions of this Constitution, and shall continue in office in the same manner, and during the same period, they would have done, had they been elected on the first Monday in October” And whereas, The President of the Constitutional Convention, the Hon. R. R. Reid, has, died since the issuing of his proclamation of the ratification and adoption of said Constitution. And whereas the Secretary of said Convention hath removed, and is now absent from Florida, and the duties of said President and Secretary, prescribed as afore said, are imposed on said Committee of said Convention above named or a majority of them, one of which Committee, Gen. Leigh Reid, has also since died : And whereas, it is important that the proper officers of this Territory should he required by law to perform the acts necessary for the holding of said elections : And whereas, there are inconsistencies between the existing election laws of the Territory of Florida, and the provisions of the said Constitution, with respect to the qualification of voters and otherwise : And whereas, since the adoption of said Constitution, several new counties, have been created in this Territory, and without further legal provision in relation to said election, confusion and irregularities may occur with respect thereto : Therefore,

Section 1 . Governor to Issue Proclamation.

Be it enacted by the Governor and Legislative Council, of the Territory of Florida, That immediately upon official information received by the Governor of this Territory that Congress have approved the State Constitution, and provided for the admission of Florida, it shall be the duty of said Governor to make proclamation thereof, annexing thereto a copy of the act of Congress and of this act; and in and by said proclamation, to enjoin and direct the several clerks of the County Courts of this Territory, to issue an order appointing inspectors to hold an election in the mode and manner prescribed by the act approved 15th March, 1843, respecting elections, to be held in their respective counties, at the time, and as directed by said surviving members of said Committee of the Constitutional Convention, or a majority thereof.

Sec. 2. Duty of Clerks of County Courts.

Be it further enacted, That it shall be the duty of said clerks respectively, to transmit forthwith by mail two copies of their order duly certified, one directed to " the Secretary of the Territory of Florida, Tallahassee” and the other to "the Committee of the Constitutional Convention, "Tallahassee" said order to contain the names of the inspectors appointed for holding said election.

Sec. 3. When Inspectors May be elected.

Be it further enacted. That if any clerk shall fail to perform the said duty of appointing inspectors, they may be elected by the qualified voters attending to vote at the usual place of holding elections heretofore in the county, as provided in and by said act of 1843.

Sec. 4. Qualifications for Voters.

And whereas, by the provisions of said Constitution it is declared that the qualifications of electors at said election for Governor of the State of Florida, Representative in Congress from the State of Florida, and members of the General Assembly of the State of Florida, shall be as follows : " Every free white male person of the age of twenty-one years and upwards, and who shall be at the time of offering to vote, a citizen of the United States ; and who shall have resided, and had his habitation, domicil, home, and place of permanent abode in Florida, for two years next preceding the election at which he shall offer to vole ; and who shall have at such time and for six months immediately preceding said time, shall have had his habitation, domicil, home and place of permanent abode in the country in which he may offer to vote, and who shall be enrolled in the militia thereof, (unless by law exempted from serving in the militia) shall be deemed a qualified elector, at all elections under this Constitution ; and none others; except in elections by general ticket in the State or District, prescribed by law, in which cases the elector must have been a resident of the State two years next preceding the election, and six months within the election district in which he offers to vote ; Provided, that no soldier, seaman, or marine, in the regular Army or Navy of the United States, unless he be a qualified elector of the State previous to his enlistment as such soldier, seaman or marine in the regular Army or Navy of the United States, or of the Revenue service, shall be considered a resident of the State, in consequence of being stationed within the same;" Therefore,
Be it further enacted, That so much of the several election laws of this Territory, as conflicts with said provision of said Constitution, or that imposes additional qualifications to those therein prescribed, be and the same is hereby declared to be repealed and annulled.

Sec. 5. Duty of clerk of Election

Be it further enacted, That in order that said provision of the Constitution in regard to the enrolment of electors in the militia may be complied with, the clerk of each election precinct shall, before any person is permitted to vote, require him to enrol himself in the militia of the Territory, by having his name placed on the roll hereinafter prescribed.

Sec. 6. Oath

Be it further enacted, That said inspectors and clerk shall in addition to the oath prescribed by said act of 1848, each take and subscribe the oath prescribed in the State Constitution in the words following, viz : “State of Florida : I do, swear (or affirm) that I am duly qualified, according to the Constitution of this State, to exercise the office to which I have been elected (or appointed) and will to the best of my abilities discharge the duties thereof, and preserve, protect, and defend this Constitution of this State, and of the United States.

Sec. 7. Poll Book.

Be it further enacted, That said inspectors end clerk shall keep three separate poll books or list of voters, one of which to be kept by said clerk shall also be the militia roll, and which shall each be in the following form, viz :
"POLL BOOK, or list of voters, at the                   precinct in the county of                 in the State of Florida, at the election for Governor of the State of Florida, for one Representative in the 29th Congress of the United States from the State of Florida, for                  Senator in the General Assembly of said State, from the                District, and              for Representative in the General Assembly of said State, from the county of                      to serve until the first Monday of October, 1846, as provided by the Constitution of the State of Florida, held on Monday the                         day of                      1845." And each of which poll books shall set forth, in a separate and distinct column, each person offering to vote, designating in the other separate and distinct columns, opposite his name, the different officers he voted for, numbering in each column, in consecutive order, the voters who voted for each officer, and one of which poll books to be made by the clerk, shall be considered as the militia roll required by Constitution — and all three of which poll books shall be signed by said inspectors and clerk.

Sec. 8. New Counties

Be it further enacted, That the clerks of the county Court of Santa Rosa, Wakulla, St. Lucie, Benton and Marion counties, respectively, shall appoint the inspectors in their respective counties, and in addition to the copies hereinbefore provided to be transmitted to the Secretary of the Territory, and Committee of the Constitutional Convention, shall also forthwith transmit a copy of the orders issued by them respectively, duly certified, as follows, viz : the clerk of Santa Rosa county shall transmit such copy to the clerk of the county Court of Escambia county ; the clerk of the county Court of Walton county shall transmit such copy to the clerk of the county Court of Washington county ; the clerk of Wakulla county Court shall transmit such copy to the clerk of the county Court of Leon county ; the clerk of Marion county Court shall transmit such copy to the clerk of the county Court of Alachua county ; and the clerk of the county Court of Benton county shall transmit such copy to the clerks of the county Courts of Alachua, Hillsborough and Monroe Counties, respectively ; — and the clerk of St. Lucie county Court shall transmit such copy to the clerk of the county Court of Mosquito county now Orange, and also to the clerk of the County Court of St. Johns's county ; and the clerk of the county Court of Mosquito county now Orange, shall transmit a like copy to the clerk of St. John's county Court, and the clerks of the county Courts of Dade and Hillsborough counties, respectively, shall transmit such copies to the Clerk of the County Court of Monroe county. Provided, however, Inasmuch as the  county of Benton is composed of a district of country which, at the time of the adoption of the Constitution in 1839, was partly in Alachua, county, and in the 12th Senatorial District, and partly in Hillsborough county, and in the 16th Senatorial District, as prescribed by said Constitution; all north of a line running east and west from the Gulf of Mexico to Mosquito county, through the Indian village of Toachotka, forty miles from Tampa, being in Alachua county, and all south of said line being in Hillsborough county ; the clerk of Benton County Court shall in the order for said election, notify and direct all qualified electors residing north of said line, to vote for Representatives from Alachua, and Senator from the 12th Senatorial District, and all residing south of said line to vote for Representative from Hillsborough, and Senator from the 16th Senatorial District, as prescribed by said Constitution, and also direct the inspectors of the elections to make the returns accordingly as hereafter directed.

Sec. 9. Power of Inspectors.

Be it further enacted, That the inspectors of said election shall have like powers as are given them by said above cited act of 1843, for the preservation of peace and good order; and the same rules and regulations, for the conduct of the election as are provided in and by said act, shall be observed and pursued as near as may be in said election, unless the same conflict with the provisions of said Constitution, or with this act.

Sec. 10. On voters being challenged.

Be it further enacted, That the inspectors of the election may, in all cases, and when any vote is challenged by a legally qualified elector, it shall be their duty to examine the person offering to vote, upon his oath, or affirmation, to be administered by one of them, touching his qualifications as an elector, and decide upon such examination as to the legality of his vote, noting in the poll book each person so sworn, and whether his vote was received or rejected.

Sec. 11. Certificate.

Be it further enacted, That the inspectors shall count the votes, as is directed by article VI of said above recited act of 1343, and shall, on the same being done, issue and sign, at the end of each poll book, a certificate in the following form :
STATE OF FLORIDA :
Senatorial District,
County,
Precinct,
We, the subscribers, inspectors and clerk of the election, held at the precinct, county and district aforesaid, on Monday the                day of                         1845, do hereby certify on oath, that the following is a true return of the votes given at said election at said precinct :
For Governor of the State of Florida, for four years from, the               day of                         1845, and until his successor is chosen and qualified :
The whole number of votes was                The number of                      votes was given for                             such Governor. The number of              votes was given for               as such Governor.
For Representative from the Stale of Florida, in the 29th Congress of the United States : The whole number of                   votes was The number of votes was given for as such Representative. The number of                   votes was given for                          as such Representative.
For Senator in the General Assembly of the State of Florida, from the                        Senatorial District, the whole number of        votes was                   . The number of                     votes was given for                    as such Senator. The number of                 votes was given for                          as such Senator. For Representatives in the first General Assembly of the State of Florida, from the County of                      to serve until the first Monday of October, 1846, the whole number of votes given was                 . The number of votes was given for                     as such Representative. The number of                      votes was given for                          as such Representative.

Sec. 12 Duty of Inspectors

Be it further enacted, That said inspectors shall forthwith, after said election, transmit by mail the poll book and militia roll, kept as aforesaid, with one of said certificates, to the Secretary of the Territory, at Tallahassee, and one other to the said poll books and certificates, by mail, to the Committee of the Constitutional Convention at Tallahassee, and the other to the clerks of the county courts of their respective counties, and the inspectors of the election in the county of Santa Rosa, shall also transmit a copy of said poll book and certificates to the clerk of the county court of the county of Escambia ; the inspectors in the county of Walton, to the clerk of the county court of said county of Walton, and also a copy thereof to the clerk of the county court of Washington county ; the inspectors in the county of Wakulla to the clerk of the county court of Leon county ; and the inspectors in Marion county, to the clerk of the county court of Alachua county ; and the inspectors in Benton county, north of the line hereinbefore described, to the clerk of the county court of Alachua county ; and the inspectors in Benton county, south of said line to the clerks of the county courts of the counties of Hillsborough and Monroe respectively ; and the inspectors in the county of St. Lucie, to the clerks of the county courts of St. Johns county, and Mosquito, now Orange county ; and the inspectors of Mosquito now Orange county, to the clerk of said county, and also to the county court of St. John's county ; and the inspectors in Dade and Hillsborough counties to the clerks of their respective counties, and also a like copy to the clerk of Monroe county.

Sec. 13. Duties of clerks of county courts

Be it further enacted, That on the Monday next after the election, the clerks of the counties of Escambia, Walton, Washington, Jackson, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden. Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton, Columbia, Duval, Nassau, Hillsborough, Dade, St. Johns and Monroe, respectively, shall proceed to count the votes for Representatives in the General Assembly from the said counties respectively, as prescribed in article VII, of said act of 1843, and shall make a statement thereof, and give a certificate to the person or persons who shall appear to be elected by the returns made to him of said election ; and the clerk of Leon county shall perform the like duty with respect to the election of Representatives from Leon and Wakulla counties; the clerk of Escambia county shall perform the like duty with respect to the election of Representatives from Escambia and Santa Rosa counties ; the clerk of Alachua county shall perform the like duty with respect to the election of Representatives from Alachua, Benton and Marion counties; and the clerk of Mosquito now Orange county, shall perform the like duty with respect to the election of Representatives from Mosquito, (now Orange) county, and St, Lucie county.

Sec. 14. Duties of clerks of county courts.

Be it further enacted, That on the second Monday after the election, the clerk of the county court of Escambia county shall, in like manner proceed to count the votes for Senator in the first Senatorial District; the clerk of the county court of Washington county shall, in like manner, proceed to count the votes for Senator in the second Senatorial District; the clerk of the county court of Jackson county shall, in like manner, proceed to count the votes for Senators in the third Senatorial District; the clerk of the county court of Calhoun county shall, in like manner, proceed to count the votes for Senator in the fourth Senatorial district ; the clerk of the county court of Franklin county shall, in like manner, proceed to count the votes for Senator in the fifth Senatorial district ; the clerk of the county court of Gadsden county, shall in like manner, proceed to count the votes for Senator in the sixth Senatorial district ; the clerk of the county court of Leon county shall, in like manner, proceed to count the votes for Senators in the seventh Senatorial district ; the clerk of the county of Jefferson county shall, in like manner proceed to count the votes for Senator in the eighth Senatorial district; the clerk of the county court of Madison county shall, in like manner, proceed to count the votes for Senator in the ninth Senatorial district ; the clerk of the county court of Hamilton county shall, in like manner, proceed to count the votes for Senator in the tenth Senatorial district ; the clerk of the county court of Columbia county shall, in like manner, proceed to count the votes for Senator in the eleventh Senatorial district ; the clerk of the county court of Alachua county, shall in like manner, proceed to count the votes for Senator in the twelfth Senatorial district; the clerk of the county court of Duval county, shall, in like manner, proceed to count the votes for Senator in the thirteenth Senatorial district ; the clerk of the county court of the county of Nassau, shall, in like manner proceed to count the votes for Senator in the fourteenth Senatorial district ; the clerk of the county court of St. John's county shall, in like manner, proceed to count the votes for Senator in the fifteenth Senatorial district ; and the clerk of the county court of Monroe county shall, in like manner, proceed to count the votes for Senator in the sixteenth Senatorial district; and shall, in like manner, make a statement of said votes, and give a certificate to such person as shall appear to be elected as Senator by the returns made to him of said election as aforesaid.

Sec. 15. Duty of Sec'y of Territory

Be it further enacted), That the Secretary of the Territory shall, as said returns are received by him, open, the same, and on the third Monday after the election, he shall proceed, as is provided in respect of the returns of certain Territorial officers, in and by the VIII article of the act of 1843, before cited to canvass and count up all the votes given at the different precincts throughout the Territory, for the different candidates voted for to fill the offices above named, as may appear from the returns as received by him, and make a full statement thereof, and deliver a copy thereof to the members of the Committee of the Constitutional Convention, for comparison by them with the returns received by said Committee, and when certified by said Committee, or a majority thereof, to be correct, he shall attest the same, and cause the same, so certified and attested, to be published, and a copy thereof to be transmitted to each of the person who shall appear therefrom to be elected at said election to said offices respectively.

Sec. 16. When returns are missing.

Be it further enacted, That if, on examination of returns by any of the clerks of said counties, or by said Secretary of the Territory, and from a comparison with the order of the clerk appointing inspectors, and designating the places of holding the elections, it appears that the returns of any precincts are missing, the fact shall be stated in the certificate aforesaid ; and if any of the returns shall be received by any of the said clerks, or by said secretary after the making of said statement, the same shall be certified and attested, and published and transmitted in like manner, forthwith on the receipt thereof.

Sec. 17. Duty of Sec'y.

Be it further enacted, That all said original returns received by said Secretary, together with the originals of said statements and certificates, shall be transmitted by said Secrettary to the House of Representatives of the General Assembly of the State of Florida, on the first day of the first session thereof, and the certificates aforesaid of said election by said committee of the Constitutional Convention, attested by said Secretary, shall be prima facia evidence of the election of said Senators and Representatives in the General Assembly.

Sec. 18. Repealing clause.

Be it further enacted, That all laws of this Territory, inconsistent with the provisions of said constitution, or with this act, be and the same is hereby repealed ; but all laws and parts of laws of this Territory, that can be applied in aid of the objects of this act, shall be held and deemed as a part thereof.
Approved 11th March, 1845.

No. II. An ACT to amend the chapter entitled "Elections," approved 15th March, 1843.

 

Sec. 1. Illegal voting.

Be it enacted by the Governor and Legislative Council of the Territory of Florida, That if any person shall vote contrary to the provisions of the chapter, entitled, "Elections," or who shall vote twice at any election held in this Territory, he shall be liable to indictment as for a misdemeanor, and on conviction shall be punished by a fine not exceeding two hundred dollars, and by imprisonment for a time not exceeding six, months.

Sec. 3. Repealing Clause

Be it further enacted, That so much of the section, entitled, 'Chapter of Elections" as gives compensation to the inspectors of Elections be and the same is hereby repealed : Provided, however, That the Inspector who shall carry such returns to the Clerk's office shall receive one dollar per diem while actually engaged in said service.
Approved March 10th, 1845.


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