Electoral Votes in the 1789 US Election

When looking at the details of the electoral votes in the 1789 US election, one may need a little background to fully understand.

The 1789 United States presidential election decided the first president of the new country. After breaking away from the British Empire, the constitution had just been ratified in 1788 and it was time to select a leader for the nation.

Of the 13 states at the time, only 10 participated. Two states (RI and NC) had not ratified the constitution yet. NY failed to select it’s electors on time to be eligible.

The 10 remaining states had a total of 69 electoral votes, however, at the time each elector actually had two votes each. This was changed to one vote per elector via the Twelfth Amendment in 1804.

View the chart below to see how the electors voted:

Electoral Votes in the 1789 US Election

Electoral Votes 1789 US Election chart

As you can see, George Washington received 69 votes; one from each elector. In essence, this means Washington was unanimously voted to become president.

John Adams received 34 votes which was second highest and made him Vice President per the rules at the time. The remaining 35 votes were split between 10 other candidates.

The breakout of elector votes from the remaining 10 candidates are as follows:

  • John Jay (9)
  • Robert Harrison (6)
  • John Rutledge (6)
  • John Hancock (4)
  • George Clinton (3)
  • Samuel Huntington (2)
  • John Milton (2)
  • James Armstrong (1)
  • Benjamin Lincoln (1)
  • Edward Telfair (1)

The election process odd as it was not the same as modern times. For one, only approximately 1.8% of the US population voted, since virtually only white landowners were allowed to vote.

In addition, there was no uniform process to determine how states were to select their electors. Some states used a system of popular vote while others utilized state legislatures to make the determination.

Though this election process was slightly different, it led to the election of George Washington, widely considered to be one of the best presidents in US history.


Source: Mount Vernon.org

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