No lengthy election season. No primaries. No campaign rallies. No endless advertisements. No debates. No long lines on election day. No worry about hanging chads. Thus was the case for the first presidential election. George Washington didn't even have an opponent!With the recent adoption of the constitution, voters cast their ballots on this day, January 7, 1789 for state electors, thus the beginning of the Electoral College. It was of no surprise that George Washington received the most votes with John Adams coming in second. Washington was the Virginia landowner who had led the patriotic forces in the war against the British. He was sworn into office in New York on April 30, 1789.
Elections were much different back in the day as compared to today's balloting and voting machines. Only white men who owned property voted. They choose electors who in turn voted for the candidates. Washington finished first with 69 votes, followed by his fellow Federalist, John Adams of Massachusetts, whose 34 votes propelled him into the vice presidency. (Prior to the ratification of the 12th Amendment in 1804, the candidate who received the most electoral votes became President while the runner-up became Vice President.)
Presidential Elect 1789 Other Candidates
John Jay of New York (9 votes);Forty-four electors failed to cast their ballots.
Robert Hanson Harrison of Maryland (6 votes);
John Rutledge of South Carolina (6 votes);
Samuel Huntington of Connecticut (2 votes); John Milton of Georgia (2 votes);
James Armstrong of Pennsylvania (1 vote);
Benjamin Lincoln of Massachusetts (1 vote); and
Edward Telfair of Georgia (1 vote).
As it did in 1789, the United States still employs the Electoral College. The President and Vice President are the sole elected federal officials chosen by the Electoral College instead of by direct popular vote.