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25 Random Facts About . . .

The Presidential Election

  1. The first official presidential election in the United States took place in 1789 with George Washington becoming the first president. However, only 10 of the 13 states participated in the election, as New York had chosen no electors, and North Carolina and Rhode Island had not yet ratified the Constitution.a
  2. The Antimasonic Party was the first to hold an official party convention to nominate candidates for the president and vice-president in 1832. Such conventions are now part of the standard process for the Republican and Democratic parties.a
  3. Prior to the 12th Amendment of the Constitution in 1804, the presidential candidate who received the second highest number of electoral votes was named the vice-president. The amendment mandated that electors vote for the offices of president and vice-president separately.a
  4. Ronald Reagan
    Ronald Reagan was the oldest presidential candidate ever to be elected; he was 69 at the time of election
  5. The oldest presidential candidate to be elected was Ronald Reagan at age 69, while the youngest candidate to be elected was John F. Kennedy at age 43. If elected in the 2008 election, John McCain would have taken over the title of oldest elected president at age 72.b
  6. In the 1984 presidential election, Ronald Reagan received both the highest number of popular votes (54,455,075) and the highest number of electoral votes (525) in the history of U.S. presidential elections. These numbers have yet to be surpassed by another presidential candidate.b
  7. Richard Nixon (in 1972) and Ronald Reagan (in 1984) are tied for carrying the highest number of states in an electoral vote at 49. Nixon failed to carry Massachusetts, and Reagan failed to carry Minnesota.b
  8. Grover Cleveland is the only candidate ever to be elected to one term, defeated for a second term, and then elected again four years later. Thus, he became both the 22nd president and the 24th president.b
  9. Norman Thomas of the Socialist Party goes down in history as the only candidate to run for president six times; he was never elected.a
  10. The 1960 presidential election holds the title of the closet presidential race. John F. Kennedy won just a tenth of a percent more popular votes than Richard Nixon, but he did carry a clear majority in the Electoral College with 303 votes, as opposed to Nixon?s 219 votes.b
  11. The first general election presidential debate was held on September 26, 1960, between John F. Kennedy, candidate for the Democratic Party, and Richard Nixon, nominee for the Republicans. Prior to this election, presidential candidates occasionally debated, but not in an official manner?and not on T.V.a
  12. Four times in the history of presidential elections, the candidate who won the most popular votes has not been elected president. This occurred in the 1824, 1876, 1888, and 2000 elections.a
  13. There are currently a total of 538 electors in the Electoral College. Each state receives a number of electors equal to the number of its Senators and Representatives in Congress. Washington, D.C., is also given three electors, the number given to the least populous states.a
  14. Only two states, Nebraska and Maine, allocate their electoral college vote in proportion to the popular vote. The other 48 states and the District of Columbia declare all of their electoral votes to the winning popular candidate in the state, despite the margin of victory.a
  15. At least 270 electoral votes are required for a candidate to be declared president. If this number is not reached in the Electoral College, the House of Representatives elects the president.a
  16. While an elector in the Electoral College is supposed to vote in accordance with his state?s voters, he may not always do so. For example, a West Virginia elector in 1988 chose to vote for Lloyd Bentsen instead of Michael Dukakis, the candidate who had carried the state.a
  17. In order to be elected president, a candidate must be at least 35 years old, a natural-born citizen of the United States, and a resident of the U.S. for at least 14 years.c
  18. Election Day
    Election day is traditionally held on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November
  19. The presidential election is traditionally held on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November. November was chosen as the election month because it was a convenient time for farmers when the weather was still nice enough to travel to the county seat and the bulk of their harvest chores were finished. The Tuesday after the first Monday was chosen to prevent the election from ever falling on the first day of the month and to thwart travel on Sunday. It was preferred that the election not be held on the first day of the month, as many business owners completed their accounting for the previous month on that day, and a poor business month could affect the vote of these owners.a
  20. Voter participation in presidential elections has fallen in the last four decades from an average of nearly 62% of registered voters participating in 1960s elections to an average of just over 54% for the 2000s elections.c
  21. The 2008 presidential election was the first time since the 1928 election that neither the incumbent president nor the incumbent vice-president ran for election.c
  22. While the popular vote may decide the president in early November, a candidate is not officially elected president until the Monday after the second Wednesday in December, when members of the Electoral College cast their votes.a
  23. The president officially enters office on January 20th during a formal inauguration ceremony. Prior to a Constitutional amendment in 1933, the inauguration ceremony was held on March 4th, to allow enough time for election results to be collected and the winning candidate to travel to Washington, D.C.a
  24. Barack Obama
    Barack Obama was the first ever African American presidential candidate for a major political party and the first African American president
  25. The 2008 presidential election was the first time in U.S. election history when two sitting senators ran against each other for president. From this election, Barack Obama became just the third sitting senator ever elected.c
  26. Barack Obama, presidential candidate for the Democratic Party in the 2008 election, was the first ever African American presidential candidate for a major party.c After his election, Obama became the first African American president in U.S. history.c
  27. Only two women have ever won the nomination of a major party in a U.S. presidential election: Geraldine Ferraro was the Democratic vice-presidential nominee in 1984, and Sarah Palin was the 2008 Republican vice-presidential nominee.c
  28. The 2008 presidential candidates, John McCain and Barack Obama, were the only two presidential candidates to be born outside of the continental U.S. Obama was born in Hawaii, and McCain was born in the Panama Canal Zone, a U.S. naval base. A bipartisan legal review agreed that McCain was a natural-born citizen and thus eligible to run for president.c

-- Posted October 20, 2008. Updated November 5, 2008.

References

a Almanac: History & Government. Accessed: September 20, 2008.

b DeGregorio, William A. 2005. Complete Book of U.S. Presidents, 6th Edition. New York: Barricade Books, Inc.

c University of California, Santa Barbara. The American Presidency Project. Accessed: September 20, 2008.