Elections

America’s public, partisan and passionate campaigns fired up uniformed young men who participated in torchlit marches, a style pioneered by the Republican Wide Awakes stumping for Abraham Lincoln in 1860 (above: a procession stomped through Lower Manhattan’s Printing House Square).

The Little-Known Story of 19th-Century America's Partisan Warfare

In a new book, Smithsonian curator Jon Grinspan examines the history of America's furious and fractious politics

When abstract concepts, such as fairness, race and differences, are explored with picture books, spoken about during play or introduced in activities like art-making, they are accessible to children and better understood.

Smithsonian Voices

Proactive Tips for Speaking With Children About Violence, Racism and Tragic Events

What do we tell children now? It's time to ask ourselves what we are going to say and do before the next time this happens

Learning about a major news event as it transpires can be stressful for families to navigate and process together.

Smithsonian Voices

Smithsonian Educators Offer Tips for Talking to Children After a Traumatic Event

As details about traumatic events unfold in the news, it is important for families to navigate these conversations with young children with care.

In this newspaper illustration, the Electoral Commission holds a secret candlelit meeting in the courtroom of the Supreme Court on February 16, 1877.

History of Now

Five Things to Know About the 1876 Presidential Election

Lawmakers are citing the 19th-century crisis as precedent to dispute the 2020 election. Here's a closer look at its events and legacy

The election of 1800 didn't invent the idea of a peaceful transition of power from one set of ideals to another, but it did engrave the United States into history as a democracy.

Inauguration History

How John Adams Managed a Peaceful Transition of Presidential Power

In the election of 1800, for the first time in U.S. history, one party turned the executive office to another

A march in support of the Vote 18 movement in Seattle in 1969 and buttons advocating for youth enfranchisement in the Smithsonian's collections.

100 Years of Women at the Ballot Box

How Young Activists Got 18-Year-Olds the Right to Vote in Record Time

In 1971, more than 10 million 18– to 20-year-olds got the right to vote thanks to an amendment with bipartisan support

“We have submitted the issue to the American people and their will is law,” wrote Democrat William Jennings Bryan (pictured here on the campaign trail) in an 1896 telegram to Republican William McKinley.

History of Now

Why Defeated Presidential Candidates Deliver Concession Speeches

The tradition dates back to 1896, when William Jennings Bryan conceded the election to William McKinley via telegram

Maine and Nebraska allocate two electoral votes to the statewide winner but allow each congressional district to award one electoral vote to the popular vote winner in their specific locality.

History of Now

Why Do Maine and Nebraska Split Their Electoral Votes?

Instead of a winner-take-all system, the states use the "congressional district method"

A young man watches incoming presidential election results in 2016 on the giant screens of Times Square.

Anxious About Election Results? Here's What's Happening in Your Brain as You Wait

Scientists are learning more about the neuroscience of awaiting uncertain outcomes

Glass ballot boxes were used as a way to show voter transparency at the polls and became popular in the late 1800s.

A Glass Ballot Box Was the Answer to Voter Fraud in the 19th Century

This transparent approach let voters know that their ballots were counted

Five to ten percent of people will read an email, but 80 to 90 percent of people will read a text.

How the 2020 Presidential Race Became the 'Texting Election'

Campaigns took full advantage of text-to-donate technology and peer-to-peer texting to engage voters this election cycle

An elegant solution—raise money from donors to underwrite the purchase of food locally for polling stations in each city—tacos in Milwaukee, barbecue in Atlanta, cupcakes in Houston, empanadas in Portland, burritos in L.A.

Chefs Are Helping Hungry Voters Waiting in Line at the Polls

One clear winner this election season? Everything from empanadas to barbecue, courtesy of star chef José Andrés and his partners

Part of the Crow reservation is in Montana's Big Horn County, but the at-large election system meant that the first Crow county commissioner wasn't elected until 1986.

100 Years of Women at the Ballot Box

To Make Native Votes Count, Janine Windy Boy Sued the Government

'Windy Boy v. Big Horn County' helped ensure the Crow and Northern Cheyenne were represented, but the long struggle for Native voting rights continues

Ostraca are rare artifacts of actual democratic procedures. They can reveal hidden bits of history that were omitted by ancient chroniclers and offer insight into voter behavior and preferences that would otherwise be lost.

Ancient Greeks Voted to Kick Politicians Out of Athens if Enough People Didn't Like Them

Ballots that date more than two millennia old tell the story of ostracism

Labor leader Min Matheson was an inspiration to the garment workers she organized in Pennsylvania’s Wyoming Valley. Here, ILGWU members picket in Scranton in 1958.

The True Story of Min Matheson, the Labor Leader Who Fought the Mob at the Polls

The activist rallied garment workers and combated organized crime interests in northeast Pennsylvania in the mid-20th century

An oil-cloth cape worn by a young Republican during a late-night, torch-lit campaign march ahead of the 1880 presidential election.

When Young Americans Marched for Democracy Wearing Capes

In 1880, a new generation helped decide the closest popular vote in U.S. history

Anti-war Democrats objected to mail-in voting, citing widespread fears of voter fraud, as well as intimidation on the part of the pro-Republican military.

History of Now

The Debate Over Mail-In Voting Dates Back to the Civil War

In 1864, Democrats and Republicans clashed over legislation allowing soldiers to cast their ballots from the front

Su Nueva Laundromat in West Lawn, Chicago, is the official polling place for about 700 registered voters.

Eight of America's Most Unusual Polling Places

To capture democracy in America, photographer Ryan Donnell tracks down polls in surprising locations across the country

A Virginia woman votes early in the 2020 general election.

100 Years of Women at the Ballot Box

How Women Vote: Separating Myth From Reality

Suffragists said women voting would transform politics. Here’s how women have wielded the ballot in the past century, according to a political scientist

Susan B. Anthony (seen here in 1898) was fined $100 for casting her vote in the 1872 presidential election.

100 Years of Women at the Ballot Box

In 1872, Susan B. Anthony Was Arrested for Voting 'Unlawfully'

President Donald Trump posthumously pardoned the pioneering activist on the 100th anniversary of women's suffrage

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