How does the first-ever Presidential election compare to the 2020 election?


The American flag flies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, March 17, 2020. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

(ABC4 News) — The week of January 7, 1789, was the first time Congress set a date states were required to choose electors for the country’s first-ever presidential election. 

A month later, on February 4, Geroge Washington was elected as the United States’ first President and sworn into office on April 30, 1789. 

Over 230 years later in 2021, and details surrounding the election, like who can vote and when are different, while much of the process remains the same.

According to, the Electoral College system was used in the first presidential election. Today, electoral votes are still used to determine who will take office.

Each state is given a certain number of electors based on its total number of representatives in Congress. Utah has four electors; Burgess Owens, Blake Moore, Chris Stewart, and John Curtis.

Each elector casts one electoral vote following the general election. There is now a total of 538 electoral votes. The candidate that gets more than half, 270 votes, wins the election.

In 1789, when George Washington was elected president of the United States, he won with 69 electoral votes.

According to, before the adoption of the 12th Amendment, which was ratified in 1804, there was no separate ballot for president and vice president. Each elector could cast two votes for president. Resulting in the candidate with the largest number of electoral votes winning the presidency. Previous to the 12th Amendment, the runner-up would then became vice president.

Only white men, 21-years-old and older who owned land could vote in the first election. Passed by the Senate on June 8, 1866, and ratified July 9, 1868, the 14th Amendment granted citizenship to all persons “born or naturalized in the United States,” including formerly enslaved people, and provided all citizens with “equal protection under the laws.” 

Today, the Electoral System gives all Americans over the age of 18 the opportunity to vote.

In 1870, a unanimous vote by territorial lawmakers made it possible for women in the Beehive State to vote. Utah was the second state, after Wyoming to allow women to vote. 

Two days later, on February 14, 1870, Seraph Young became the first woman in the United States to vote under equal suffrage laws.

Years later in 1920, the 19th Amendment was ratified granting all women the right to vote. It reads, “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”

Hundreds of years have passed between the nation’s first election and the one we are currently experiencing between incumbent Donald Trump and former Vice-President to President Barack Obama, Joe Biden. 

Both elections being historic in unique ways. The 2020 election progressed amid the 2020 coronavirus pandemic. 

Despite the health crisis, voter turnout was the highest it’s been since 1908. Voting is now done at the end of the year, in November instead of the beginning, and all United States citizens, 18-years-old and older can vote.

Though much has changed throughout the many elections, the main concept of electing a President remains the same. Americans still vote and the winner is still certified by the Electoral College.


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Glen Mills

Chief Political Correspondent

 Glen is honored to be delivering the news of the day every weeknight at 5, 6, and 10 in his home state. He is an award-winning veteran journalist, who joined the ABC4 News team as a weekend anchor in June 2013. Over the years, he held various positions at the station as he worked his way up to the main anchor chair. He also serves as our Senior Political Correspondent and hosts Inside Utah Politics, which airs every Sunday. The Utah Headliners Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists has recognized Glen as the best government and military television reporter in the state. Before returning home to Utah, he spent 11 1/2 years developing his journalism skills in other states. He held various on-air and management positions at KPVI in Pocatello, Idaho, WGBA in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and KKCO in Grand Junction, Colorado during that time. Read More...