25 Surprising Facts You Didn’t Know About US Elections
The United States is the world’s largest economy if you’re looking at nominal GDP. We’re also a major leader in technology and innovation. Neil Armstrong was the first man to walk on the moon. The first cell phone was made by Motorola, an American company. Michigan-born Henry Ford was credited for developing the first affordable automobile. America is also home to some of the world’s most significant civil rights leaders, Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks. And don’t get us started on pop culture.
These are just a few of the reasons that the rest of the world looks to us for an example. This is why our presidential election, held every four years on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November, is viewed as an international event.
We’ve made history by voting this past decade. Barack Obama was the first African American to serve as POTUS, Hillary Clinton was the first woman to be nominated by a major party, and Donald J. Trump, 70, will be the oldest candidate to be sworn into office. But history was also made in years past.
1. Winning the popular vote but not the election didn’t just happen to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. It happened to four other candidates, including Al Gore in 2000.
2. To honor Election Day in 1996, the New York Times released this crossword. Clinton is filled in here but writing in his opponent Bob Dole would have worked out as well.
3. On Inauguration Day, the President can take their oath on any Bible or books of their choosing. In 2013, President Obama used two Bibles, Martin Luther King Jr.’s and Abraham Lincoln’s. He also used the latter for his 2009 inauguration.
4. Horace Greeley, founder of the New-York Tribune and the new Liberal Republican Party’s candidate in the 1872, passed away after the election but before the Electoral College balloted. Ulysses S. Grant came out as the victor that year by a wide margin.
5. Even though Congress granted citizenship to Native Americans born in the U.S. on June 2, 1924, some states barred them from voting until 1957.
6. George Washington was the first and only U.S. president in history to be elected unanimously by the Electoral College. The nation was divided between Federalists and anti-Federalists but united in wanting Washington as their president. There were also no formal political parties at the time.
7. Would you have ever guessed that the White House once hosted one of the wildest parties in history? After swearing in, seventh president Andrew Jackson had about 20,000 guests in his new residence. Servants had to lure them out by placing tubs of juice and whiskey out on the lawn.
8. Al Smith was the Democratic U.S. presidential candidate in 1928, but the slogan “Vote for Al Smith and make your wet dreams come true” wasn’t due to him trying to fulfill any sexual desires. Smith was an anti-Prohibition, wet candidate, popular among drinkers.
9. One loss might be a big enough blow for some but these dreamers kept fighting. Presbyterian minister Norman Thomas of the Socialist Party ran for president six times and was never elected. Harold Stassen sought the Republican Party nomination nine times also without success. Henry Clay, leader of the Whigs, ran five times. Although he never won, he was considered central to national politics. He is best known for his work with the Compromise of 1850.
10. Martin Van Buren was the first natural born U.S. citizen to serve as president. The first seven were British subjects.
11. There were 56 people who signed the Declaration of Independence and 12 of them were 35 years old or younger.
12. Jehovah’s Witnesses practice political neutrality, which means that they do not vote or run for office.
13. George Washington was 6 foot 3 inches tall compared to the national average for males, 5 foot 8 inches, during his time. Second president John Adams was rumored to have complained about Washington’s popularity, saying that he was only “chosen for everything” because he was “taller than anyone else in the room.”
14. If you had friends who cast an apathetic vote this year (meaning they did not vote at all), kindly remind them that NASA astronauts voted from space. How? They submitted an absentee ballot through a secure electronic connection.
15. Can you imagine if the candidate with the second highest electoral votes became VP? Well, that’s what happened before the ratification of the Twelfth Amendment in 1804.
16. Thomas Jefferson proposed federal legislation that would have banned slavery in new territories after 1800 but it failed to pass by a single vote.
17. Women’s suffrage was granted with the passage of the 19th amendment. In the years between 1968 and 2004, without female voters, the Republicans would have won all presidential elections except for one. In addition, in the presidential elections between 1980 and 2008, women have voted more Democratic than men.
18. Barack Obama and John McCain went head to head in the 2008 presidential election. What did they have in common? They’re the only two presidential candidates born outside of the continental U.S. (Obama was born in Honolulu, Hawaii and McCain was born in Coco Solo, Panama, a former U.S. Navy facility).
19. At 43 years old, John F. Kennedy was the youngest person to be elected to office. However, Roosevelt was even younger, 42, when he filled in following the assassination of William McKinley.
20. Even though Andrew Jackson received more popular and electoral votes, he did not receive the required 131 votes in the Electoral College. The decision went to the House of Representatives, who declared John Quincy Adams, pictured here, the winner.
21. Remnants of the era of Prohibition remained even in modern times. It wasn’t until 2014 that South Carolina permitted the sale of liquor on Election Day. It was the last state to do so.
22. Victoria Woodhull helped lead the woman’s suffrage movement and became the first woman to run for U.S. President. However, Woodhull’s tender age of 34 would have made her ineligible to serve (the minimum age is 35). Her running mate was abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass, the first African American nominated for VP. The two ran on the Equal Rights Party ticket.
23. We may criticize how politicians spend their campaign budget today but did you know that George Washington used his for booze? Looks like it worked. The history maker spent 50 pounds, his entire budget, on 160 gallons of liquor for voters.
24. Although Hillary Clinton was the first woman to be nominated for POTUS by a major party, she was not the first to run. The list of women who have run for president includes Jill Stein and Shirley Chisholm among over 200 others, Smithsonian historians estimate.
25. Nearly half the country didn’t vote in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The United States has consistently low voter turnout compared to countries like Belgium and Turkey where voting is compulsory and other developed democracies where it is not required, reports the Pew Research Center.