I just finished Doris Kearns Goodwin’s pretty good Team of Rivals (Simon & Schuster 2005), about Lincoln and his fractious Cabinet. I was reminded that state and federal elections were held on different days in the 1860s (and presumably earlier in American history, too). In October 1862, gubernatorial elections in Penna. and Ohio were closely watched to see what they might portend for the November congressional elections. State elections in Vermont and Maine in September 1864, and in Ohio, Penna. and Indiana in October, were thought to be auspicious for Lincoln’s reelection and the congressional balloting in November.
Why not have all such elections on the same day each year, as we now do? Particularly given the expense and trouble of holding elections, and the likelihood that the more rural, farming population of that era might find it more difficult to come to town to vote twice in the autumn, it’s puzzling.