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Map of Delaware

On December 7, 1787 the Delaware State Legislature, by a unanimous vote of 30 to 0, became the first state to ratify the newly proposed national Constitution.

When a new State Constitution was adopted in 1792, the office of State Executive, which had previously been called President and chosen by the Legislature, was changed to Governor, and became an elected position. The term of office was kept at three years.

Delaware with only three counties (New Castle, Kent and Sussex) had the fewest in the nation. They also had the smallest State Legislature, comprised of nine State Senators and twenty-one Representatives.

Each county had three Senators, serving for three years. Their terms were staggered, so that one Senator was elected every year from each county. The House of Representatives had twenty one members, seven from each county, and who were elected annually at large.

Congressional, State and County Elections were held simultaneously in early October. Delaware elected one Congressman from 1788 – 1810, two for 1812 – 1820, and then one again from 1822 onward. State offices elected by popular vote were Governor, State Senator and Representatives. County officials elected by popular vote were Levy Court Commissioners, Coroners and Sheriff.

The voting alignment of the three counties, with New Castle voting Republican and Sussex and Kent being Federalist, meant that the State Legislature was almost always controlled by Federalists. As a result, from 1792 to 1820 Delaware chose Federalist Presidential Electors, even in 1820 when all four electors gave their Vice Presidential votes to Daniel Rodney, a Federalist and former Governor.

The Legislature also selected United States Senators, and with the exception of Caesar A. Rodney, who was elected in 1822, all those chosen during this time period were Federalists.

Party competition began with the state elections of 1792 and continued virtually unabated until 1826, when the last Federalist Governor was elected. Despite the dominance of Federalists in the Legislature, the parties were fairly balanced in popular voting strength, with Republicans electing their candidate for Governor in 1801, 1810, 1820 and 1822 and Congressmen in 1792, 1794, 1802 and capturing one of their two seats in 1816, 1818 and 1820.

Delaware counties were broken down into Hundreds, which seem to be the equivalent of townships. By 1811 state election returns started to be reported by Hundreds, a procedure which began showing the tight cohesion in voting amongst Federalist and Republican tickets.

The Hundreds also elected local officials such as Assessors, Inspectors and Road Commissioners. These elections were held in September, before the state voted in October, and on occasion, if they were favorable to either party, these returns were reported in the newspapers.

Delaware, the first state in the Union was the last to elect a Federalist Governor.

Bibliography


Electoral College

Elector: A member of the Electoral College chosen by the several States to elect the President and Vice-President.

Oxford English Dictionary

See President of the United States for the votes cast by the Electoral College for President.

Historical Note: These elections were vastly different from modern day Presidential elections. The actual Presidential candidates were rarely mentioned on tickets and voters were voting for particular electors who were pledged to a particular candidate. There was sometimes confusion as to who the particular elector was actually pledged to. Prior to the 12th Amendment, electors were pledged to two candidates as there was no distinction made in the Electoral College between President and Vice-President.

1789 - 1824: Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia

State Breakdown for Election of Members to the Electoral College:

Alabama: Legislature (1820), Popular Vote (1824)

Connecticut: Legislature (1789-1816), Popular Vote (1820, 1824)

Delaware: Popular Vote (1789), Legislature (1796-1824)

Georgia: Legislature (1789, 1792, 1800-1824), Popular Vote (1796)

Illinois: Popular Vote by District

Indiana: Legislature (1816, 1820), Popular Vote by District (1824)

Kentucky: Popular Vote by District

Louisiana: Legislature

Maine: Popular Vote by District

Maryland: Popular Vote (1789, 1792), Popular Vote by District (1796-1824)

Massachusetts: Popular Vote (1789-1796, 1804, 1824), Legislature (1800, 1808, 1816), Popular Vote by District (1812, 1820)

Mississippi: Popular Vote

Missouri: Legislature (1820), Popular Vote by District (1824)

New Hampshire: Popular Vote (1789-1796, 1804-1824), Legislature (1800)

New Jersey: Legislature (1789-1800, 1812), Popular Vote (1804, 1808, 1816-1824)

New York: Legislature

North Carolina: Legislature (1792, 1812), Popular Vote by District (1796-1808), Popular Vote (1816-1824)

Ohio: Popular Vote

Pennsylvania: Popular Vote (1789-1796, 1804-1824), Legislature (1800)

Rhode Island: Legislature (1792, 1796), Popular Vote (1800-1824)

South Carolina: Legislature

Tennessee: Popular Vote by District

Vermont: Legislature

Virginia: Popular Vote by District (1789-1796), Popular Vote (1800-1824)

Office Scope: Federal

Role Scope: State / District