How many electoral votes did President George Washington have?

William Murphy:

Washington won 69 out of 69 available electoral votes in 1788, and 132 out of 132 in 1792. These are the only unanimous electoral college wins in history.

A few things to be aware of:

1. In the 1788 election (which actually extended into 1789) there were two states (North Carolina and Rhode Island) which had not yet ratified the Constitution and therefore were ineligible to cast any votes at all.

2. There was virtually no popular vote at all. The Constitution left it up to the states to determine how to select their electors. Most states at this stage did so by allowing the state legislatures to directly appoint the electors, who then were free to vote however they wanted. In 1788, the New York state legislature deadlocked in the choice of electors, and therefore did not cast an electoral vote in the election. Some states did allow a popular vote to choose a few of the individual electors in the state, with the rest chosen by the legislature. Overall about 1.8 percent of the population voted in the election; about 43,000 votes in total (out of a population of around 3 million). This was partly because many states did not use a popular vote at all, and partly because in those that did, only white males over 21 who owned substantial property were allowed to vote.

3. In those days, the vice president was the candidate who received the second-most electoral votes (this would change as a result of the 12th Amendment in 1803). To ensure that someone was likely to receive a majority of the vote, the electors each cast two votes, but both were votes for President. The idea was that the second-place finisher in the presidential vote would become vice president. This would be true in the elections of 1788, 1792, 1796 and 1800. The 12th Amendment would change the system so that electors cast separate ballots for president and vice president. Washington was elected unanimously because all 69 electors who voted in 1788 voted for him on their first ballot. They divided their votes on the second ballot among 11 different candidates. John Adams received 34 votes, the second most after Washington, and became the first vice president. So Washington was elected unanimously, but his vice president was not.

At this stage, we were still very much figuring this whole thing out, and procedures would change a lot after the deadlocked election of 1800 had to be decided by the House of Representatives (leading to, among other things, the 12th Amendment). Most states would continue to appoint some or all of their electors via the legislature until the 1820s, with one or two (notably, South Carolina) holding out until the 1850s before adopting a popular vote.

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