Early United States Elections Project

This project asks you to explore the political culture and elections in Massachusetts in the early United States. It consists of two parts: first, an essay that analyzes election results from a single town in the context of Massachusetts politics; second, a group presentation with students working on towns within the same county.

In order to complete the project, you will need to familiarize yourself with two online databases:

Essay (due Thursday, February 20)

Each student will be assigned a town in Massachusetts for which voting results exist from the years 1787-1825. Your essay should explore how elections in the town you selected fit (or don’t) larger patterns of political culture that we have read about and discussed in class. As part of your work, you must analyze election results from elections for governor, another office of your choice, and you may then include analysis of any other elections for which results exist in the town during the time period. In addition, you will supplement the quantitative analysis of election results with research in newspapers from the time period to examine discussion and debate around particular elections.

In your essay, you should respond to the following two questions:

  1. What trends do you notice about voting? How do the results change over time? What party or parties dominated during these years in your assigned town?
  2. Based on your newspaper research, our class reading about politics in the early United States, and your understanding of the period, why do you think the trends occurred? Were there, for example, regional or national factors that shaped how the town voted?

In class on February 11 and February 18 we will review how to use each of the databases and Microsoft Excel, and you will have time to work on developing your analysis.

Essay Requirements

  • Submit your essay via Dropbox by 11:59 p.m. on Thursday, February 20.
  • Your essay should be at least 1,200 words, not including footnotes.
  • All citations and formatting should be made according to the Chicago Manual of Style.
  • Your essay must include at least one visualization of quantitative election data (i.e., a table or graph), and reference to at least three newspapers.
  • Your essay should reference at least two secondary readings from the course.
  • You may not conduct outside research without prior permission from the instructor.

Group Presentation (Tuesday, March 10)

After the essays are submitted, students with towns from the same county will compile their results together into a group presentation that considers voting patterns at the county level during the early United States. This is an opportunity to make comparisons among towns within a larger geographic unit to further explore voting patterns. The goal is to make a comparison across the towns, rather than simply to have each student present their own results. The presentation should offer an integrated look at voting patterns in the assigned county that discusses the two questions above, and includes research in both election results and newspapers from each group member.

Each group will have time in class on Tuesday, March 3 to work on the project.

Presentation Requirements

  • Each presentation should be about 12-15 minutes total.
  • Every student must speak for at least two minutes.
  • The group should prepare a slide deck that includes at least three visualizations of data that is synthesized to include all of the towns in the sample.
  • Charts and graphs should be formatted according to the Chicago Manual of Style.
  • You may include slides with relevant images, for which there should be a source written on the slide.
  • Grading will be based on a rubric that encompasses the quality of the slide deck, the group’s integration of evidence, and each individual’s role.

Rubric Guidelines

Each presentation will be judged based on the entire group’s performance, though about 20% of the final grade for each individual will relate to his/her contribution during the individual presentation.

The grade will consider the following factors:

  1. How effectively did the group present an argument for voting trends in the assigned county?
  2. How effectively did the group integrate the research and quantitative data from the towns assigned to each group member?
  3. How effectively did the group address the historiography of elections/politics in the early United States?
  4. How effectively did the slide deck convey the argument of the presentation?
  5. How effectively did the slide deck provide information about the sources and evidence used to create individual slides?
  6. Did the group evenly apportion speaking time?
  7. How effectively did the group address questions raised during the presentation?

The individual portion of the grade will relate to each student’s contribution to the overall presentation, including both his/her data and speaking role, as well as each student’s contribution to conversation during Q&A.