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formation of Election Districts
In 1799 an act was passed by the General Assembly for the appointment of commissioners in every county of the State to lay off the counties into districts. The commissioners for Allegany were John B. Beall, David Hoffman, Thomas Stewart, William Shaw, George Robinet (of Nathan), and Jesse Tomlinson.
In 1817, the Legislature passsed an act for the redivision of the county into eight districts. The commissioners appointed were Isacc Oyman, William Reid, William McMahon, George Newman (of Butler), and John Simpkins.
The polls of District #3, Little Crossings, were removed to Grantsville in 1850. A considerable amount of its jurisdiction and population were added to Frostburg in 1856.
(P 1345 Histroy of Western Maryland, by Scharf)
In this county, by a vote of 596 for the Democrats to 593 for the Federalists, in 1814, three Democrats and one Federalist were chosen by the people, but by a small technical interpretation of the law the people of one district of the county were deprived of their suffrages, and the four Federal candidates declared elected. The presiding judge of the Fourth District was a justice of the peace. He qualified the other two judges and the clerks, and was then himself qualified by a judge instead of a clerk. After the election when one of the three judges from each of the three districts of the county assembled to make the returns, it was contended that the election in the Fourth District was illegal, as the presiding judge had not been properly qualified. Four of the assembled judges, after rejecting all the votes cast in said district (which was Democratic), selected the four Federal candidates having the highest number of votes on the list and gave them a certificate of election, with a note stating an "irregularity" in one of the districts. The other two judges also made a return, giving credit to the whole number of votes received in the county, showing that three of the Democratic and one of the Federal candidates were elected. All the judges were Federalists. As the possession by either party of these three contested delegates would determine the election of the Governor, who was at that time chosen by joint ballot, great interest was manifested in the result of the contest.
The Legislature was convened on the 6th of December, and when the clerk of the House called the names of the four Federal delegates from Allegany County who had certificates of election, several objections were made by the Democrats to their admission. The Federalists, who were in the majority, contended that the returns of a majority of the judges of election were at least prima facie evidence that the persons named were duly and legally elected, and they had no right, therefore, to decide that they should not be qualified as members. There was nothing, they said, in the Constitution, or in the history of parliamentary proceedings, which would justify such an act. It was only after the House had been organized that they had the power to give any decision on the legality of contested elections, and to exclude members returned by the constitutional authority would be a course of proceeding altogether novel. On the other side the Democrats, through Messrs. John T. Mason, of Washington County, Thomas B. Dorsey, of Anne Arundel, and Tobias E. Stansbury, of Baltimore County, argued that as neither of the returns appeared correct, it would be better for the House to proceed in its organization and have the question come before them at another time. Mr. Mason said, as there was no case parallel to the one under consideration, they must be governed by what seemed most expedient. Mr. Stansbury seemed greatly alarmed for the dignity of the House, lest disorder should ensue before they were in a situation to meet it, or a Speaker had been appointed. As two returns had been made from Allegany, and one appeared equally correct with the other, he wished to know who was to decide which of the persons returned should be allowed to qualify and take their seats as members. Messrs. John C. Herbert (Speaker), from Prince George's, Ephraim K. Wilson, of Worcester, and J. Hanson Thomas, of Frederick County, said that these, imaginary difficulties might be easily obviated, for they were bound to pay attention to the returns made by a majority of the judges until it should be made to appear that they had been illegally made.
In the course of the proceedings several attempts were made by the Democratic members to organize the House before admitting the Allegany members, but the grounds they took were regarded untenable, and they were overruled by the majority. Upon the reference of the whole subject to the Committee on Elections, they, on the 11th of December, made a report in favor of the Federalists who had the minority of votes but the certificates of election, and the House, by a strict party vote, adopted it, thus deciding that "it would be setting a dangerous precedent to admit collateral testimony to set aside the returns of the judges of election." The Monday following was the constitutional day for electing the Governor.
The question whether the Senate (who were all Democrats) should secede and refuse to go into the election of a Governor and Council unless the House of Delegates would consent to be controlled by their wishes and decide not to admit the Allegany delegates, which gave the controlling power to the Federalists, was fully discussed in caucus, not only by members of their own body, but by some of the most distinguished Democrats in the State, who were invited to attend. At the same time the Democrats of the House of Delegates exhorted the Senate with great warmth not to go into an election of the executive for the ensuing year. In fact, they threatened to resort to arms to maintain their opinion and to compel the Federalists to yield.
On the appointed day it was thought that the Senate would not meet the House in joint convention, but at a late hour the principle that each House should be judge of its own elections prevailed over what the Senate unanimously believed was a sacrifice of the rights of the people to a form, and Governor Levin Winder was re-elected Governor of Maryland for the following year. Seventeen of the members of the House of Delegates, however, refused to cast their ballots.
(P 1363-64 Histroy of Western Maryland, by Scharf)
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