How was the first US president elected?

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Question from Susanna Rudd

George Washington was unanimously elected in 1789. Only white men who owned property were allowed to vote for people to represent their state, who in turn voted for the president and vice president. In the 18th century state electors cast two votes, with the most popular candidate becoming president and the person in second place becoming vice president.

This system was flawed as there was no distinction between the two votes, and it was abused in 1796 when electors only cast one vote to ensure their preferred choice won, so the vice president became the president’s rival. This changed in 1804 and separate votes were cast.

Answered by Jodie Tyley for Brain Dump in How It Works issue 140.

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