Today, Americans will be electing the 44th President of the United States. To give you something to read while you stand in line at the polling places, here are five interesting facts about elections and voting:
1. In colonial times, a common “get out the vote” strategy was for candidates to offer alcohol at the polling places. When George Washington ran for the Virginia House of Burgesses in 1758 he brought out 28 gallons of rum, 50 gallons of rum punch, 34 gallons of wine, 46 gallons of beer, and two gallons of cider royal. Although it was almost enough for every voter to half a half-gallon of booze, Washington worried his campaign manager had “spent with too sparing a hand” and wouldn’t have enough. (It worked: Washington got 331 votes, more than his three rivals.)
2. The Ohio Constitution includes a clause (Article V, Section 6) that prohibits “idiots” from voting (No idiot, or insane persons, shall be entitled to the privileges of an elector). The provision was added in 1851 to prevent people of diminished mental capacity from voting. In 1970, the Ohio Constitutional Revision Commission noted that, “The lack of procedure for determining who is ‘insane’ or an ‘idiot’ could allow persons whose opinions are unpopular or whose lifestyles are disapproved to be challenged at the polls, and they may lose their right to vote without the presentation of any medical evidence whatsoever.” Despite this concern, the language remains unchanged.