The gubernatorial election of 1812 saw the return of Caleb Strong, a Federalist, to the Governor's office after two years of Republican rule. Strong defeated the Republican Elbridge Gerry, the incumbent, in a close vote.
Some of the pressing issues of the 1812 election might sound familiar to us: highly suspect partisan political machinations, a war on the horizon that the people of Massachusetts regarded with suspicion, and taxation. Gerry was tied to the administration of James Madison which supported war with England, a position unpopular with the people of Massachusetts, whose maritime commerce would bear the brunt of the English navy's force and the Federalists portrayed themselves as the party of peace. In addition, when Elbridge Gerry was first elected governor, his supporters made a list of all jobs that could conceivably filled by patronage and began to root out Federalists who held those jobs.
Although voting occurred on 6 April 1812, as late as 18 April 1812 the final voting totals were unknown. The Columbian Centinel, a Boston newspaper, reported on that day that three towns in Massachusetts and "a few small towns and Plantations and Maine" had yet to be heard from. The Weekly Messenger (Boston) of 8 May 1812 published a final tally of 52,343 votes for Strong, 50,829 for Gerry. The number of votes was up substantially from the 1811 election, where Gerry had defeated the Federalist Christopher Gore, 43,325 to 40,146. After that election Gerry supporters passed an act "which opened the vote for town officers to all adult males except paupers with one year's residence in town and qualified for the vote in other town affairs all persons who paid a poll tax." (James Banner Jr., To the Hartford Convention: The Federalists and the Origins of Party Politics in Massachusetts 1789-1815, New York, 1969, p. 276) As Banner notes, since town elections and the election for Governor were held on the same day, it was very easy just to allow everyone who qualified to vote in the local election to also allow them to vote in the statewide election even though the requirements might have been slightly different for each.
Turnout was also higher because In the early 19th century Massachusetts towns decided how many representatives each would send to the legislature based on rather loose regulations in the state constitution and, since towns paid the costs of supporting their own representatives while in session (the Commonwealth reimbursed transportation) wealthy communities could send more representatives than poorer communities. The size of the General Court grew consistently between 1800 and 1810 and the lower house had 745 members in 1812, as opposed to the 258 members in 1801. (Paul Goodman, The Democratic-Republicans of Massachusetts: Politics in a Young Republic, Cambridge, MA 1964, p 142.)
The 1812 election also introduced the "gerrymander" into the world. A Republican created redistricting plan which would enable the Republicans to keep the State Senate despite majority support for the Federalist Party was passed by the legislature and signed by Elbridge Gerry. About two weeks before the election, the Boston Gazette created a cartoon of the district which ran from Chelsea to Salisbury and named it the "gerrymander", a stroke of lexicographical genius. It was quickly picked up by other newspapers, including ones in Newburyport and Salem, and undoubtedly helped sway voters against Gerry. Gerry's defeat didn't end his political career however, as he moved to Washington D.C. to serve as Vice-President during 1813-1814.