November 23, 1860
By the time Maine Secretary of State Noah Smith certified Maine’s election returns in 1860 to the state’s Executive Council and Governor Lot Morrill, no one was surprised at the outcome.
Illinois Republican Abraham Lincoln won the state’s eight Electoral College votes in handily winning the general election. Of the nearly 101,000 votes cast in Maine, Lincoln won 62,811 – 62.2 percent of the total.
Stephen Douglas, the Northern Democrat, finished second, with fewer than 30,000 votes. Southern Democrat John Breckinridge was third, with 6,368 votes. John Bell, the candidate of the Constitution Union party, received only 2,046 votes.
Maine’s voting percentage for Lincoln far surpassed the 39.8 percent of the national vote, indicating a strong sentiment for Lincoln, and for his running mate, Maine’s Hannibal Hamlin.
Nationally, the percentage of support for Douglas was almost exactly the same for Douglas as it was in Maine. Breckinridge and Ball received much stronger support elsewhere than they did in Maine.
Lincoln earned 180 electoral votes of the 303 available. In an oddity, Breckinridge had 540,000 fewer votes than Douglas, but earned 72 electoral votes to only 12 for Douglas.
For Maine, the results also meant a slate of Electoral College voters committed to cast their ballots for Lincoln.
Among the notables from Maine were future governor Abner Coburn, of Bloomfield, and Portland mayor and former State Senator, William Willis.
Willis, 66, also was president of the Maine Historical Society, and was the law partner of William Pitt Fessenden.
Smith reported to the Council on November 23, 1860, that "William Willis has Sixty Two Thousand Nine Hundred and fifteen votes…."
That total would be within a vote or three of Coburn, William Reed, of Bath, George Pickering, of Bangor, Andrew Peters, of Ellsworth, William McGilvery, of Searsport, Daniel Howes, of New Sharon, and Louis Cowan, of Biddeford. They would proceed to carry out their electoral duties within two weeks of Smith’s certification of the vote totals.
- How did Maine distribute its electoral votes?
- How could Breckinridge do so much better than Douglas in the Electoral College vote?