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Todd vs. Jayne


If you tuned in last month, you heard about the election of John Todd as Dakota Territory's first Congressional delegate. It had been an easy victory for Todd. He had established business interests in Dakota Territory and a cousin in the White House, Mary Todd Lincoln. But his victory was short-lived. Less than a year after taking his seat in Washington, it was once again up for election. The 1862 election pit Todd against William Jayne, Dakota's first governor and a close friend of Abraham Lincoln.

Each candidate had something distinctive to offer. Jayne, a Republican, emphasized his party connections in Washington. Todd, a Democrat, drew the support of Democrats, but also several territorial Republicans who disliked Jayne personally or felt he was too much of an outsider. But for many, the decision simply came down to who would have the most influence with the president; Jayne, his former physician and friend, or Todd, his wife's cousin.

Following the September election, the territorial Secretary canvassed the votes, but for the Congressional delegate. But he found so much evidence of fraud he was initially uncertain how to proceed. At Brule Creek, polls opened a day early and the precinct submitted more ballots than registered voters. Nearly half of the ballots from Charles Mix County were cast by non-residents, and the Sioux Falls poll never opened for because of fear- of an Indian raid during the US-Dakota Conflict. Complicating matters even further, election officials from each precinct had forty days to get the election returns to Yankton. But the returns for Kitson County in the northern Red River district failed to arrive on time. So, they weren't counted. Finally in November, Secretary Hutchinson announced the results: Jayne had won the Congressional delegate seat by a mere 16 votes.

Days later, the Red River ballots finally arrived in Yankton. Of the 144 votes cast at Pembina, Todd won 125. If these ballots had been included in the final count, Todd would have won the seat by 90 votes! Todd immediately contested the election results.

The final decision would be made by the US Congressional Committee of Election. Jayne was temporarily granted the seat in Washington while the committee investigated. Finally, in May of 1864, the Congressional Committee submitted its report. They tossed out half of the ballots from Charles Mix County and the entire precinct of Bon Homme, while returns from the Red River were included the final count. With these new numbers, Jayne gained 256 votes, but Todd gained 344 ... reversing the outcome.

Nearly two years after the 1862 election, John Blair Smith Todd finally took his seat as the congressional delegate for Dakota Territory. But once again, his victory was short-lived. Later that year, Todd lost his third bid for re-election. But he did go He went on to serve one term in the Dakota Territorial legislature before his death on this date in 1872.

Written by Christina Sunwall


Kingsbury, George W. History of Dakota Territory. Vol. 1 South Dakota: Its History and Its People, ed. George Martin Smith. Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1915.

Lamar, Howard Roberts. Dakota Territory, 1861-1889: A Study of Frontier Politics. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1956.