In this timely episode, Ken Owen, Michael Hattem, Roy Rogers, and special guest Jeffrey L. Pasley discuss the role and development of elections in early America. This episode was recorded in front of a live audience at the Kinder Institute for Constitutional Democracy at the University of Missouri at Columbia on October 7, 2016. It was supported in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities administered by the Missouri Humanities Council.
Elections in early America were a very different affair from what they have become. From viva voce voting to the communal ritualism of colonial elections to the increasingly private and party-driven nature of early national elections, the story of the establishment, development, and importance of the electoral process in American history is a rich one indeed. Yet, while the Constitutional Convention devised the Electoral College for presidential elections, it did not set uniform standards for all elections at all levels. This led to the uneven development of electoral policies and practices, including requirements for voter eligibility. In the nineteenth century, political parties emerged, in part, as a means of imposing more structure into the process at all levels. But, of course, the emergence of political parties and party systems had their complicating impact on elections and voting. In many ways, we are still very much living and dealing with today the legacy of the electoral system instituted during the early national period.
- What were elections like before the Revolution?
- How did elections change after the Revolution?
- How did electoral practices develop in the early republic?
- What was the importance and meaning of voting in early America?
- What were the intentions behind establishing the Electoral College?
- How does the current election compare to elections in the early nineteenth century?
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Jeffrey L. Pasley is Professor of History at the University of Missouri and Associate Director of the Kinder Institute on Constitutional Democracy. He is the author of “The Tyranny of Printers”: Newspaper Politics in the Early American Republic (2001) and The First Presidential Contest: The Election of 1796 and the Beginnings of American Democracy (2013) and co-editor of Beyond the Founders: New Approaches to the Political History of the Early American Republic (2004).
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