The Electoral Count for the Presidential Election of 1789

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After New Hampshire ratified the Constitution on 21 June 1788, being the ninth requisite state to do so, the Confederation Congress passed the Election Ordinance on 13 September, which provided for the selection of presidential Electors in the states on 7 January 1789 and set 4 February as the date they would cast their ballots in their states.

The Constitution left it up to each state to choose the manner in which their Electors were chosen (Article II, section 1). North Carolina and Rhode Island had not yet ratified the Constitution and had no Electors in the election of 1789. The New York legislature was unable to pass an election act in time to choose its allotted 8 Electors, failed to appoint any by 7 January, and cast no electoral votes on 4 February. A total of 69 Electors voted in the first Presidential Election (2 Electors in Maryland, and 1 in Virginia failed to cast ballots). Each elector had two votes, at least one of which had to be cast for a person outside their state. The votes were to be forwarded to Congress, where they would be counted in the presence of the Senators and Representatives. The person with the most votes would be President; the one finishing second in the balloting would be Vice President. Congress convened in New York on 4 March 1789; quorums were achieved in the House and Senate on 1 and 6 April 1789, respectively. Congress confirmed the results of the first presidential election (see below) when it officially counted the ballots on 6 April 1789. Vice President John Adams assumed his duties as president of the Senate on 21 April and George Washington was inaugurated as President of the United States on 30 April 1789.

The following tallies of the electoral count for the Presidential Election of 1789 derive from Merrill Jensen et al., eds., The Documentary History of the First Federal Elections, 1788-1790 (4 vols.; Madison, Wisconsin, 1976-1989). Presidential Electors were elected by the people in only five states, and the lack of vote counts and other records makes the reconstruction of the total popular vote impossible.

1789 Electoral Votes

NEW HAMPSHIRE Five electors appointed by state legislature on 7 January 1789 from top ten candidates elected at large by people on 15 December 1788.
George Washington 5 votes
John Adams 5 votes


MASSACHUSETTS Voters in eight districts nominate Electors on 18 December 1788; on 7 January 1789, the legislature chose one elector from the two men receiving the highest number of votes in each district and appointed two additional Electors at large.
George Washington 10 votes
John Adams 10 votes


CONNECTICUT Seven Electors appointed by the state legislature on 7 January 1789.
George Washington 7 votes
John Adams 5 votes
Samuel Huntington 2 votes


NEW JERSEY Seven Electors chosen by the Governor and Privy Council on 7 January 1789.
George Washington 6 votes
John Jay 5 votes
John Adams 1 vote


DELAWARE Election of Electors by voters in three districts on 7 January 1789, certified by Privy Council on 24 January 1789.
George Washington 3 votes
John Jay 3 votes


PENNSYLVANIA Ten Electors elected at large by voters on 7 January 1789.
George Washington 10 votes
John Adams 8 votes
John Hancock 2 votes


MARYLAND Eight Electors chosen at large by voters on 7-10 January 1789. Two were absent on 4 February when ballots were cast for President.
George Washington 6 votes
Robert H. Harrison 6 votes


VIRGINIA Twelve Electors chosen by voters in 12 districts on 7 January 1789. One district failed to make returns, and one elector failed to attend the balloting on 4 February 1789.
George Washington 10 votes
John Adams 5 vote
George Clinton 3 votes
John Hancock 1 vote
John Jay 1 vote


SOUTH CAROLINA Seven Electors chosen by legislature on 7 January 1789.
George Washington 7 votes
John Rutledge 6 votes
John Hancock 1 vote


GEORGIA Five Electors appointed by the legislature on 7 January 1789.
George Washington 5 votes
John Milton 2 votes
James Armstrong 1 vote
Edward Telfair 1 vote
Benjamin Lincoln 1 vote


TOTALS: 138 votes
George Washington 69 votes
John Adams 34 votes
John Jay 9 votes
Robert H. Harrison 6 votes
John Rutledge 6 votes
John Hancock 4 votes
George Clinton 3 votes
Samuel Huntington 2 votes
John Milton 2 votes
James Armstrong 1 vote
Edward Telfair 1 vote
Benjamin Lincoln 1 vote

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