Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and the Political History of the United States

Edited by: Lalor, John J.
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New York: Maynard, Merrill, and Co.
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Includes articles by Frédéric Bastiat, Gustave de Molinari, Henry George, J. B. Say, Francis A. Walker, and more.
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SCRATCHING. The rejection of a candidate by drawing a line through his name on the printed ballot, whether or not the voter writes in another name in its place. In the "Australian system" of voting, for some time in use in England, the names of all candidates are printed on an official ballot, and the voter designates those for whom he votes by "scratching" the other names. In the United States the name and practice have been identified with "independent" voting, and the practice of scratching the names of unsatisfactory candidates from the ballot supplied to the voter by his own party, and replacing them with names from the opposite ticket or of his own choice, has long been common with individuals as a means of protest. The term acquired political notoriety in 1879, when a number of younger republicans in New York state, having little or no previous connection with politics except as individual voters, united against "the machine," and advised the "scratching" from the republican ticket of the name of the candidate for governor, Alonzo B. Cornell. and that of the candidate for state engineer, Howard Soule. The reasons for this action were: the dissatisfaction with the Saratoga convention, and the belief that under the control of the "machine" leaders the republican party could not win in the presidential election of 1880. The call for what afterward became the independent republican organization, popularly known as the "young scratchers," was a private letter printed in the "New York Evening Post," of Sept. 6, 1879; and the name of "scratchers" came from a phrase in the address soon after issued to republican voters, which concluded: "We urge true republicans not to stay at home from the polls, not to bolt, but to scratch, not to desert their party, but to attempt to purify it from within. We believe this is the only means to insure in 1880 the needed republican victory, not of politicians, but of statesmen who may be trusted to carry into practical operation the republican principles of national supremacy, sound finance, and administrative reform." The movement was much ridiculed by the party press, but the election showed that Gov. Cornell fell behind his ticket 19,686 votes, a fact which became an important factor in the succeeding presidential campaign.


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