These were intended as a substitute for the paid canvassers, about to be abolished by Mr Gladstone's Reform Bill.
After a closely contested election in which six members of Congress were chosen on a general ticket, although there was an apparent Democratic majority of about one hundred votes (in a total of 57,000), two county clerks rejected as irregular sufficient returns from townships to elect five Whig candidates to whom the state board of canvassers (mostly Whigs and headed by the Whig governor, William Pennington) gave commissions under the broad seal of the state.
But the courts threw out "supplementary returns" (possibly forged by the canvassers) and decided in favour of Bashford, who was the first Republican to hold an office; with two exceptions Wisconsin has elected Republican governors ever since.
The first of these, increasing the pay per day to the members of the legislature and providing for longer sessions,' was declared lost by the official canvassers, but when (1886) the ballots had been recounted by the legislature it was declared adopted.
In fact, some neighborhood canvassers prefer to leave an informative package of information hanging from the doorknob instead of directly speaking to a person.