On this day 224 years ago, Americans as a country chose their first president. However, some might argue that John Hanson was actually America’s first president. You can read and listen to more about that in history podcast #11. During this first election only white male, landowners were allowed to vote. Of course, Washington won this election and was sworn into office on April 30, 1789 to start the very first term of an American President.
It was also the first time the Electoral College was used. That’s they system we still use. It’s a common misconception that the people vote for the president. Americans actually vote for electors who in turn vote for a president. However, the media does follow the popular vote during election night, but the popular vote is not the official mechanism to get a president elected.
There has been much debate about whether America should continue with the Electoral College or use the popular vote. History Channel sums it up well with this:
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.