Election Day 1789

The first US presidential election was on January 7th in 1789.

. . . Voters cast ballots to choose state electors; only white men who owned property were allowed to vote. As expected, George Washington won the election and was sworn into office on April 30, 1789.

Although there have been numerous changes in the system, particularly who may vote, the Electoral College remains a big part of presidential politics.

It is mostly a winner-take-all-system, except Maine and Nebraska, which allocate electors proportionally. In order to win, a candidate needs a majority of 270 electoral votes out of 538.

Critics of the Electoral College argue that the winner-take-all system makes it possible for a candidate to be elected president even if he gets fewer popular votes than his opponent. This happened in the elections of 1876, 1888 and 2000. However, supporters contend that if the Electoral College were done away with, heavily populated states such as California and Texas might decide every election and issues important to voters in smaller states would be ignored.

My classmates and I had to debate this in high school from time to time. The more liberal folks generally wanted to do away with the system. I debated this with Erin McNicholas when we both worked on the student newspaper at McKay.



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