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When was the first U.S. presidential election?

Happy Election Day!! I hope you voted, I believe it is important to exercise your right as an American to vote for elected officials.


Though America gained its independence in 1776, the first United States Presidential election wasn't held until 1789. Even then, the United States used the Electoral College system, established by the U.S. Constitution (which today gives all American citizens over the age of 18 the right to vote for electors, who in turn vote for the president). According to Article Two of the U.S. Constitution, the states appointed a number of presidential electors equal to the “number of Senators and Representatives to which the state may be entitled in Congress.” The president and vice president are the only elected federal officials chosen by the Electoral College instead of by direct popular vote.


Between December 15, 1788 and January 10, 1789, the presidential electors were chosen in each of the states. The electors were chosen by popular vote, legislative appointment, or a combination of both. On February 4, 1789, the Electoral College convened. Each elector voted for two people, at least one of whom did not live in their state. Ten states cast electoral votes: Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Virginia. New York, though it was to be the seat of the new United States government, failed to choose its eight presidential electors in time for the vote on February 4, 1789. Two electors each from Virginia and Maryland were delayed by weather and did not vote. In addition, North Carolina and Rhode Island, which would have had seven and three electors respectively, had not ratified the Constitution and so could not vote.


George Washington, the commander of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War, is unanimously elected the first president of the United States by all 69 presidential electors who cast their votes. John Adams of Massachusetts, who received 34 votes, was elected vice president. After a quorum was finally established, the Congress counted and certified the electoral vote count on April 6.


On April 30, 1789, at Federal Hall in New York City, the first capital of the United States, Washington took the presidential oath of office. With a hand on the Bible, a "sacred volume" borrowed from a local Masonic lodge and subsequently known as the "George Washington Inaugural Bible," he said, "I, George Washington, do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." At that moment, the Chancellor of the State of New York, Robert Livingston, the person who administered the oath to the first chief executive, exclaimed, "Long live George Washington, President of the United States!"


Today, political parties usually nominate their slate of electors at their state conventions or by a vote of the party’s central state committee, with party loyalists often being picked for the job. Members of the U.S. Congress, though, can’t be electors. Each state is allowed to choose as many electors as it has senators and representatives in Congress.


During a presidential election year, on Election Day (the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November), the electors from the party that gets the most popular votes are elected in a winner-take-all-system, with the exception of Maine and Nebraska, which allocate electors proportionally. In order to win the presidency, a candidate needs a majority of 270 electoral votes out of a possible 538.


On the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December of a presidential election year, each state’s electors meet, usually in their state capitol, and simultaneously cast their ballots nationwide. This is largely ceremonial: Because electors nearly always vote with their party, presidential elections are essentially decided on Election Day. Although electors aren’t constitutionally mandated to vote for the winner of the popular vote in their state, it is demanded by tradition and required by law in 26 states and the District of Columbia (in some states, violating this rule is punishable by $1,000 fine). Historically, over 99 percent of all electors have cast their ballots in line with the voters. On January 6, as a formality, the electoral votes are counted before Congress and on January 20, the commander in chief is sworn into office.




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