The importance of an election law that would maintain pro-slavery control in Kansas Territory was clear to the legislators. The Bogus Legislature called its statute, "An Act to Provide for the Qualification of Voters, and to Prevent the Propagation of Sentiments Detrimental to the Peace and Quiet of the Territory." [House Journal, 44]
The act provided for the election of a Congressional Delegate in October 1855 and every odd numbered year thereafter, and for the election of members of the Territorial Legislature and of county officials in October 1856 and every even numbered year thereafter. Every county was made an election district, with all elections held at the county courthouse, or at such place as the county commissioners might name. The county sheriff was to give notice of the voting place, either by posting or by newspaper publication, at least ten days before the day of the election. County Boards could establish additional precincts but in no case could there be more than one precinct in each township. The County Board was to appoint election judges. Polls were to be open from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM, but if all votes could not be taken, the judges could adjourn the vote for one additional day.
Those eligible to vote were white male citizens, and male Indians who had been made citizens by federal treaty, over twenty-one years of age. The requirement for residence in the territory and county in which a person wanted to vote was satisfied by payment of a poll tax at the voting booth. No person convicted of civil or criminal violation of the Fugitive Slave Act could vote or hold office in the territory. Any voter could be challenged and required to take an oath that he would sustain the provisions of the Fugitive Slave Act and the Kansas-Nebraska Act. Anyone refusing to take the oath could be rejected. Each member of the legislative assembly, and every officer elected or appointed to office under the laws of the territory, was also required to take an oath to support the two acts of Congress. [Blackmar, History, 570 ff.]
The first free-state legislature in 1858 repealed the statute's requirement of an oath, but left the poll tax and election date provisions in place. The revenue generated by the unpopular poll tax was badly needed. Fisher, Property Taxation, 190] There were many elections in territorial Kansas, and investigation of election fraud was the most expensive item in territorial budgets, followed by the second most expensive item, holding constitutional conventions. [Madden, Financing of a New Territory, 162]
Voting at Kickapoo 1855
Cartoonist shows the voters circling between the saloon and the polling place. Early Kansas elections often saw fraudulent voting.
One writer counted no fewer than twenty-five general elections in Kansas Territory, many of them boycotted by the one side or the other: [Morgan, Wyandotte County, Ch 13]