The County Election features a crowded Missouri street on Election Day, 1846, when artist George Caleb Bingham himself ran for office. Although it was meant to represent the democratic values of American politics, a closer look at the painting reveals not an equal democracy, but an unequal and unstable society.
On the left side of the painting, an African American man who is likely a slave pours an alcoholic drink for a jolly, inebriated man. The slave’s presence contrasts the voting scene on the right hand side, reminding viewers that not all men hold the same rights. Enslaved and free blacks, along with women, did not have the right to vote at this time.