Historic presidential election results by county for Minnesota
As I mentioned in passing on my page on the use of geographic information system software in tracking the influence of the Socialist Party of American in 1910s Minnesota, I had a hard time finding historic election returns for Minnesota's counties. Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections has a wealth of information, but for a single election's results by county he asks visitors to pay between 57 and 83 dollars for a personal license and many times more for a site license. The price may be fair, for there's no doubt that his data is comprehensive. 83 dollars apparently buys you election results by county for the entire country, as well as a host of other data to hasten the integration of the voting results into your GIS project. That said, many of us can or must make do with less.
Unfortunately, it seems Leip's site is the only online purveyor of historic election returns by county. No Minnesota state government pages had what I wanted, nor could I find any old reports from around 1912 (the election I was interested in) on Google Books. I eventually found a nice little book titled Minnesota Votes: Election Returns by County for Presidents, Senators, Congressmen, and Governors, 1857-1977, which was published by the Minnesota Historical Society.
As a service, I have began to digitize the book's tables of presidential election results by county, beginning with the 1860 election (the first after Minnesota's statehood) and ending with the 1912 election. The book has election results up to 1976, obviously, so if you need the results for an election after 1912 get the book through Interlibrary Loan.
2017 update: For elections from 1992 on, elections from 1992 on the Minnesota Secretary of State site has digital, ready-to use result data for Minnesota elections. The Minnesota Legislature site has summary results in PDF form for elections from 1857 on. Better than nothing.
Before you use this information, you need to know four things. First, over the years Minnesota has gained, lost, and renamed counties (for instance, Toombs county was renamed during the Civil War because its eponym became a leader of the Confederacy). In the early part of the state's history counties seem to be in flux: some disappear in one election only to reappear later, while some are added or subtracted.
Second, for some candidates in the 1860, 1880, 1900, and 1908 elections the book provides totals that are NOT what you get when you add up the votes from each county. For example, the 1900 table says Bryan got a total of 112,364 votes. Trouble is, when LibreOffice Calc sums up what the book says he got in each county, it's a slightly different number: 112,901. That's a difference of 637 votes. To catch such errors I have included in each spreadsheet both the total for all counties as reported by the book (called the booktotal) and the total for all counties as counted by Calc (called the actualtotal). Where these two diverge, rest assured that I rigorously check to make sure I've accurately entered the numbers into Calc. Also, keep in mind that I only know that the book prints totals that don't match the data for the counties. I don't know if the book's totals are right and it's numbers for one or more counties that is wrong, or if the numbers for the counties are right and the editors just messed up their addition in coming up with the totals.
Third, the book lists McLeod before any other county beginning with M, and I've kept it that way in the spreadsheets.
Fourth, at least in the case of the 1884 election the numbers in the book vary slightly from the records posted on the State of Minnesota page linked above. I would side with the book since the authors of the book note that the results reported in the state's Legislative Manual (which is what is on the state's website now) "were found to contain many errors, especially in the returns for the early years" (p. 1).
Without further ado, here are the results:
1860: CSV | HTML
1864: CSV | HTML
1868: CSV | HTML
1872: CSV | HTML
1876: CSV | HTML
1880: CSV | HTML
1884: CSV | HTML
1888: CSV | HTML
1892: CSV | HTML
1896: CSV | HTML
1900: CSV | HTML
1904: CSV | HTML
1908: CSV | HTML
1912: CSV | HTML