First U.S. Presidential Election – January 7, 1789
This week in 1789, America’s first presidential election is held. 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.
As it did in 1789, the United States still uses 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. The president and vice president are the only elected federal officials chosen by the Electoral College instead of by direct popular vote.
1789 Election Facts
- Prior to 1804, each Elector cast two votes for President, effectively doubling the votes cast
Each Elector selected Washington with one of his votes, effectively making him unanimous choice for President. That is reflected on the map above. By coming in 2nd, John Adams was named Vice-President
- Two of 13 original Colonies (North Carolina and Rhode Island) had not ratified Constitution, and did not take part; New York did not choose Electors due to an internal dispute
- Issues of the Day: Ratification of U.S. Constitution (Article Two relates to the executive branch and choice of the president)