The 2016 Presidential election will go down as one of the more contentious of races but not the ugliest – that fact is saved for Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr. With the election between the two ending in a tie, Alexander Hamilton, treasury secretary at the time, used his influence to sway the tie breaking vote towards Jefferson positioning Burr as Vice President. Burr, while still in office killed Hamilton three years later in a duel (played out brilliantly in the Broadway show Hamilton!). Presidential elections brew the best, the worst and the weirdest of facts… we share a few of them here.
1. George Washington blew his entire campaign budget on 160 gallons of liquor to serve to potential voters. Since voters traveled many miles to vote in Colonial America, candidates would offer beverages to the voting public – a practice called “treating” the voters. During Washington’s initial run for the House of Burgesses he declined to engage in treating and lost “bigly”. With his next attempt, he changed his position on treating and provided 160 gallons of alcohol to just 391 voters. That’s just short of two-and-a-half gallons per voter! He later feared to have not spent enough. By 1811 the practice was prohibited.
2. Democrats use a donkey as their mascot thanks to Andrew Jackson. When critics of Andrew Jackson called him a “jackass”, a cruel twist on his name, he was amused by it, even including an image of a donkey on his campaign posters. Political cartoonist Thomas Nast picked up on it and used the animal in many of his cartoons for Harper’s Weekly to represent the Democratic party. To this day the donkey remains a semi-official logo representation.
3. George Washington gave the shortest inauguration speech at 135 words. The ninth president, William Henry Harrison, had the longest, at 8,445 words. He spoke for over two hours in a heavy snowstorm without a coat or hat. There have been many stories that attributed President Harrison’s death by pneumonia to this legendary speech. But his cold and pneumonia did not present themselves until weeks after his inauguration. His death ended the shortest presidency ever.
4. Actress Roseanne Barr once attempted to run for president and got as far as filing with the Federal Election Commission under the “Green Tea” Party Ticket. That’s right, The Star Spangled Banner singer and sitcom actress also ran for president. There’s even a youtube video where she debates current 2016 Green Party candidate Jill Stein in 2012.
5. American astronauts on the International Space Station can vote in elections from orbit by secure email. You may be tired of hearing about emails but this story is certifiably cool. NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough is submitting his ballot through a special electronic system, thanks to a Texas law granting them the right to vote from space since 1997. His ballot will come down to Earth so that the county clerk can record his vote.
6. 8 days after the 19th amendment was ratified, 10 million women joined the electorate. Hooray for women’s suffrage! Those numbers have since grown. Women now consistently show up to vote – to the tune of 70.4 million, the number of women who cast ballots in the 2008 presidential election, versus 60.7 million men.
7. The United States is ranked 139th out of 172 countries in voter participation. This is a 2012 statistic. Let’s hope that this election garners much more participation. The countries with the highest turnout rates? Belgium (just under 90% of of registered voters!), Sweden (86%) and Turkey (84%).
So no matter how you feel about elections, we can all admit they are fascinating. On Tuesday, just go out and vote, no matter the length of the line. We usually ask you to share your thoughts with us but since voting is a personal matter and we all can’t wait until this election is done, we don’t want to know for whom you are voting. Just that you voted! In the words of Abraham Lincoln, “The ballot is stronger than the bullet.”