Lincoln vs. Douglas: How the State Voted
NEITHER ABRAHAM LINCOLN nor Stephen A. Douglas “won” a popular election for the Senate in 1858. Neither of their names appeared on the ballot, and thus, citizens could not vote for either candidate directly. Under the rules governing Senate elections in nineteenth-century America, voters cast their ballots for local legislative nominees who in turn were empowered to choose senators, parliamentary-style. Douglas’s party won more legislative seats than Lincoln’s that year, and the Senator was thus returned to office, “defeating” Lincoln.
But at the same time, Lincoln’s Republicans fared better than Douglas’s Democrats in the key statewide popular vote held in 1858: the race for state treasurer. Republican candidates amassed more total votes in the state’s nine congressional contests as well.
One question that has never been answered, however, is whether Lincoln or Douglas men did better among voters in counties in which their seven debates were staged. The statistics are presented here for the first time. The totals provide a clue, however imperfect, to the impact