Presidential Elections & Inaugurations
Every four years, on the first Tuesday (after the first Monday) of November, we cast our votes for President of the United States. The National Archives and Records Administration has a unique role in the election process: NARA’s Office of the Federal Register administers the Electoral College.
On the following January 20, the President of the United States takes the oath of office. Take a look at historical inaugurations documented in records held by the National Archives and its Presidential Libraries.
George Washington set many precedents as the first President of the United States, beginning the day he took office. See our Featured Document—George Washington's First Inaugural Address—to learn how rituals observed during his inauguration laid the foundation for today’s inaugural traditions.
The Electoral College and the National Archives
How does the Electoral College work, and what is the Federal Register's role?
In early November, Americans go to the polls to elect a President and a Vice President who will serve for the next four years. But the voters don't directly vote for the candidates; they vote for "electors," individuals pledged to vote for the candidates, in what has become known as the Electoral College.
The Electoral College is a process, not a place. The process consists of the selection of the electors (called for by Article II and the 12th Amendment of the Constitution), the meeting of the electors where they vote for President and Vice President, and the counting of the electoral votes by Congress.
The Federal Register's role begins with sending instructions to the governments of the 50 states and the District of Columbia to receiving and reviewing certificates of votes to turning over the votes to Congress. Read more on the Federal Register's Electoral College page.
Choosing a President: How the Electoral College Works (Prologue: Quarterly of the National Archives, Fall 2012)
The Electoral College: A Message from the "Dean” (Prologue: Quarterly of the National Archives, Fall 2008)
The Electoral College: Then and Now (Pieces of History blog)
Constitution 225: Blueprint for the Electoral College (Pieces of History blog)
Constitution 225: The President (Pieces of History blog)
To Choose a President (Pieces of History blog)
The Election Isn't Over . . . (Pieces of History blog)
Black Americans and the Vote (Research portal)
Portal Spotlight: Voting Rights (Rediscovering Black History blog)
The Presidential Election of 1972: Analysis of Soviet Bloc Opinion (Text Message blog)
Inviting the World to Watch the Election of 1960 (Text Message blog)
Enforcing the Voting Rights Act (Text Message blog)
Teaching about Elections & Voting (Education Updates blog)
Elections & Voting page on DocsTeach
The Electoral College Process on DocsTeach
Additional DocsTeach teaching activities
Lesson plan for Tally of the 1824 Electoral College Vote
John F. Kennedy, 1961 (Inaugural Address)
Lyndon B. Johnson, 1965 (CBS coverage)
Lyndon B. Johnson, 1965 (U.S. Information Agency)
Peaceful Transition of Power: American Presidential Inaugurations (Prologue, Winter 2000)
Inauguration Report (Hoover Heads)
80th Anniversary – Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1933 Presidential Inauguration (Forward With Roosevelt)
75th Anniversary of FDR’s Second Inaugural and a New Inauguration Day (Forward With Roosevelt)
Amending America: The 20th Amendment, January 20, and Presidential Inaugurations (The Reagan Library Education Blog)
Featured Document: George Washington's first inaugural address and Bible
Transition Post 1: General Resources from NARA and GSA (Records Express blog)
Transition Post 2: Entrance and Exit Checklists for Senior Officials (Records Express blog)
Transition Post 3: Managing Official Email and Social Media Accounts (Records Express blog)
Transition Post 4: President-Elect Transition Team Materials (Records Express blog)
White House Transition Interviews (oral histories of former White House staffers from the Nixon administration Clinton administrations)
NARA’s Role in a Presidential Transition (Prologue, Fall 2016)
Escorting a Presidency into History: NARA's Role in a White House Transition (Prologue, Winter 2008)