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(Election Records)

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Prior to the municipal incorporation administrative authority over elections held in Baltimore was exercised by the Baltimore County Levy Court. The 1797 City Charter vested this function in the Mayor through his appointment of elections judges for each city ward and Baltimore County elections continued under the jurisdiction of the Levy Court until 1826 when the Baltimore County Commissioners assumed responsibilty.

Doubts concerning the city governments's ability to fairly administer voting procedures forced the state in 1860 to transfer responsibility for elections to the newly created and state controlled board of police commissioners. This body was empowered to subdivide the city's wards into election precincts, appoint judges of election for each, and prevent all forms of election fraud. Sixteen years later, the Maryland Legislature established the Board of Supervisers of Elections for Baltimore City to superintend all phases of municipal elections. Up to the present day this board continues to function essentially as originally determined, including the appointment of election judges for all city precincts.

Baltimore election officials from the late eighteeenth century to the early 1900s were greatly concerned with suppressing irregular activities such as balloting by ineligible voters, individuals casting multiple votes, and ballot box stuffing. Several measures were taken at various times to curb these abuses; the use of poll books were among the first efforts in this direction. Judges of election for each district were required to record in two volumes the names of all residents voting in a specific election. This procedure theoretically prevented a person from voting more than once and also allowed a comparison between the total number of voters and the total number of votes cast in each district. After elections, Baltimore City and County poll books were turned over to the county court until the legal separation of the city and county in 1851. After this date, the Baltimore City Superior Court received municipal poll books while the Baltimore County volumes continued to be deposited in the county court.

In 1837 the general assembly passed "an act to guard against Fraud in the exercise of the Elective Franchise in the City of Baltimore." Among other provisions, the law mandated yearly registration of all city voters. Administration of this activity was performed by three officers of registration appointed by the governor for each ward. All persons desiring to cast ballots were to appear before the registration officials for their ward of residence and to prove their eligibility to vote under state law. If qualified, the individual's name was entered alphabetically into two registration books. When elections were held, the election judges were required to allow only those ward residents listed in the volumes vote.

A state law passed in 1882 modified previous registration laws by calling for two sets of registry books for each Baltimore election precinct. A preliminary set was to list names and other personal information relating to all persons applying for voting priviledges; those who failed to meet specified requirements were noted as such in the books along with the reasons why. Final registration volumes were to contain only the names and addresses of voters duly qualified by the officers of registration for use by the election judges during elections. Voter registration in Baltimore is currently conducted in a similar fashion except a single board of registration is appointed for the entire city by the Supervisors of Elections.

Additional information concerning elections can be obtained from secondary sources such as Thaddeus P. Thomas, The City Government of Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Studies in Historical and Political Science, 14th series (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1896); Jacob H. Hollander, The Financial History of Baltimore (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1899); and the Municipal Handbook 1977 (Baltimore: Department of Legislative Reference, 1977), p. 135. Relevant legislative citations include the 1797 city charter and Laws of Maryland, 1805, ch. 97; 1851, ch. 333; 1838, ch. 149; 1860, ch. 7; 1868, ch. 297; 1876, ch. 223; and 1882, ch. 22. Also see art. 4, 1860 Public General Laws of Maryland, and art. 33, 1978 Maryland Annotated Code.

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DateSeries NameDescriptionMSA Citation
  Details1896-1992Registration and Election ReturnsGeneral statistics showing the number of voters registered and breakdown of voting for candidates in primary and general elections.BRG11-1
  Details1951City-Wide Voters ListList of names and party affiliationBRG11-2
  Details1804-1889Baltimore City Poll BooksList of ward residents voting in specific elections as recorded by the judges of elections. Gives only the name of the voter and occasional tabulations of election returns.BRG11-3
  Details1838-1889Baltimore City Poll Books (Registration)List of qualified voters and applicants as compiled by officers of registration with varying information. Volumes dating from 1838 to 1879 (except 1868) list only qualified voters with name, address, voting dates, whether housekeeper or lodger, and name of landlord. Particulars effecting registration status such as removal from district, death, legal age, and naturalization occasionally appear as well. The 1868 volume provides only names of qualified voters. Preliminary registration volumes from 1882 to 1889 have applicant's name; whether sworn or affirmed; age; place of birth; residence; time of residence in Baltimore, Ward of registration, and precinct of registration; naturalization information; and reasons for disqualification if applicable. Final registration volumes for 1889 list only the names and addresses of qualified voters.BRG11-4
  Details1803-1888Baltimore County Poll BooksItems are nearly identical in format to the Baltimore City Poll Books described in series 3 except that these volumes are organized by county election districts instead of city wards.BRG11-5
  Details1888Baltimore County Poll Books (Registration)Material is very similar to the Baltimore City final registration volumes described in series 4. Name and address of qualified voters are indicated. Covers only Districts 1 (Prec. 1); 3 (Precs. 4, 6); 9 (Prec. 2); and 12 (Precs. 1, 3).BRG11-6
  Details1882-1888Numbers and Boundaries of Election PrecinctsWritten descriptions of all Baltimore City Election Precinct boundaries for 1882 and all election Precincts as laid out in territory annexed to the city in 1888.BRG11-7
  Details1897-1909Election OfficialsList of all persons appointed to serve as election officials in Baltimore City with name, address, and date of appointment.BRG11-8
  Details1868Police Census

Population survey conducted by the Police Commissioners as part of their effort to readjust Ward and Precinct boundaries. Indications are that the census was never completed; only volumes for Wards 3 (Prec. 1 only), 6 (Prec. 1 only), 8, 9, 13, and 20 exist. Information includes name, street address, age, sex, race, country of birth, whether naturalized or registered, occupation, and religion. It is arranged by Ward, Precinct, and Street Address. According to bookplates, these are volume numbers 1367-1373 of an old system. 1372 is not present, possibly an additional, missing volume.

Restricted to microfilm.

  Details1879Registration Alterations

Listings of individuals whose registration status changed in 1879. Reasons for the changes include new registration, moving to a different election district, disqualification, or death. Information provided covers name of voter, residence, and election district (Ward and Precinct). Arrangement is first by Ward and thereunder either alphabetically by name of voter, by Precinct of residence, or by date of registration. There is no material for Wards 11 and 19.

See HRS Name Index which covers a large portions of the names appearing in these records. To avoid searching through the entire mass of material, it is necessary to first know the Ward, and preferably the precinct of residence. Check BCA Ward Map 1865-66 to find corresponding Ward divisions.

There is also a published list of qualified voters for 1868, arranged by Ward and Precinct in the Baltimore City Archives library.

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