Amendment XII

, , , , , ,

The Electors shall meet in their respective states and vote by ballot for President and Vice-President, one of whom, at least, shall not be an inhabitant of the same state with themselves; they shall name in their ballots the person voted for as President, and in distinct ballots the person voted for as Vice-President, and they shall make distinct lists of all persons voted for as President, and of all persons voted for as Vice-President, and of the number of votes for each, which lists they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the seat of the government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate; — the President of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates and the votes shall then be counted; — The person having the greatest number of votes for President, shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed; and if no person have such majority, then from the persons having the highest numbers not exceeding three on the list of those voted for as President, the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by states, the representation from each state having one vote; a quorum for this purpose shall consist of a member or members from two-thirds of the states, and a majority of all the states shall be necessary to a choice. [And if the House of Representatives shall not choose a President whenever the right of choice shall devolve upon them, before the fourth day of March next following, then the Vice-President shall act as President, as in case of the death or other constitutional disability of the President. –]* The person having the greatest number of votes as Vice-President, shall be the Vice-President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed, and if no person have a majority, then from the two highest numbers on the list, the Senate shall choose the Vice-President; a quorum for the purpose shall consist of two-thirds of the whole number of Senators, and a majority of the whole number shall be necessary to a choice. But no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice-President of the United States.

Passed by Congress December 9, 1803. Ratified June 15, 1804.

Note: A portion of Article II, section 1 of the Constitution was superseded by the 12th amendment.

*Superseded by section 3 of the 20th amendment.

 

April 20, 2012 – Essay #45 – Amendment XII: Circumstances Allowing the Senate to Choose the Vice-President – Guest Scholar: Hans Eicholz, Historian and Senior Fellow with Liberty Fund, Inc., an educational foundation based in Indianapolis, Indiana

, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

http://vimeo.com/40700181
Amendment XII:

The Electors shall meet in their respective states, and vote by ballot for President and Vice-President, one of whom, at least, shall not be an inhabitant of the same state with themselves; they shall name in their ballots the person voted for as President, and in distinct ballots the person voted for as Vice-President, and they shall make distinct lists of all persons voted for as President, and of all persons voted for as Vice-President and of the number of votes for each, which lists they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the seat of the government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate;

The President of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates and the votes shall then be counted;

The person having the greatest Number of votes for President, shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed; and if no person have such majority, then from the persons having the highest numbers not exceeding three on the list of those voted for as President, the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by states, the representation from each state having one vote; a quorum for this purpose shall consist of a member or members from two-thirds of the states, and a majority of all the states shall be necessary to a choice. And if the House of Representatives shall not choose a President whenever the right of choice shall devolve upon them, before the fourth day of March next following, then the Vice-President shall act as President, as in the case of the death or other constitutional disability of the President.

The person having the greatest number of votes as Vice-President, shall be the Vice-President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed, and if no person have a majority, then from the two highest numbers on the list, the Senate shall choose the Vice-President; a quorum for the purpose shall consist of two-thirds of the whole number of Senators, and a majority of the whole number shall be necessary to a choice. But no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice-President of the United States.

Circumstances allowing the Senate to choose the Vice-President

The twelfth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution was born out of the immediate political experience of the fledgling republic as it strove to apply the provisions of its written fundamental law just over a decade after ratification.

Historically the powers associated with the executive branch have been among the most dreaded of all governmental functions. In the political struggles of seventeenth century England, the friends of both English and American liberty drew lessons about the need to constrain the prerogatives of monarchs and tyrants. That understanding shaped the indictment against the King of England in the Declaration of Independence, and shaped an important part of the debate over the original Constitutional provisions respecting the election of the American President and Vice-President.

What method of appointment would best assure the selection of leaders with the temperament and virtues necessary to remain under the law? This was the essential question discussed in the Philadelphia Convention when the second Article of the Constitution respecting the selection of the presidency was originally crafted.

Initially, no distinction was to be made in casting ballots for the election of the President and the Vice-President, but each elector was to nominate two individuals. It was hoped that such a process would filter out the influences of local prejudice if each elector were required to vote for a second person not of his or her state. Some consideration, it was believed, would then likely be given to criteria beyond merely local interests. Thus Madison observed, “The second best man in this case would probably be the first in fact.” It was hoped that such a mode of selection, combined with an electoral college, would result in a process far removed from political intrigue and discourage political commotions.

In point of fact, however, that process resulted in considerable discord when the electoral vote was equally split, as happened in the election of 1800 between the two Democratic-Republican candidates of Jefferson and Burr. The equal division of electoral college votes caused the election to be thrown into the House of Representatives.

At this point, and against all expectations, Burr attempted to negotiate with the Federalist representatives in Congress, to obtain the highest office. Eventually thwarted in his machinations, Burr’s dishonorable conduct negated Madison’s initial hopes, revealing that a man of lesser character could yet hold the second position, and if the process of election was not remedied, might at some later election, even take first place through political intrigue and backroom negotiations! For this reason, the Congress set in motion the process to amend the Constitution in the selection of both President and Vice-President on the 9th of December 1803.

The primary alteration of the 12th Amendment required the explicit designation of the office for which each candidate was being designated. It preserved, however, certain aspects of the older provisions of Article II.

The process of the electoral college was maintained to ensure the independence of the executive from the legislative branch.

In matters of tied elections, it continued to send the selection of the Presidency to the House of Representatives, but with the selection of the two officers now split, the selection of a Vice-President in cases of an electoral tie, would go directly to the Senate.

In both cases, this process arose from the general principle of the Founders that in addition to the popular element reflected in the selection processes of the electoral college, regional considerations should continue to have their influence. The United States was not to be seen as simply one homogeneous national democracy, but was also a federal union of distinct state governments, a vital part of ensuring against the over concentration of power.

To this end, when breaking a Presidential tie, the House was to assemble its delegates by states and each state was to determine its votes as one: “the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by states, the representation from each state having one vote.”

Likewise, the Senate, being already organized on the federal principle, would break an electoral tie vote for Vice-President. Indeed, under the old system, the Senate was to perform this function in the event that the next most popular electoral candidates after the Presidential selection, were also tied. This portion of the 12th Amendment merely preserved that order of selection.

Hans Eicholz is an historian and Senior Fellow with Liberty Fund, Inc., an educational foundation based in Indianapolis, Indiana.

April 19, 2012 – Essay #44 – Amendment XII: A Tie in the Electoral College – Guest Essayist: Tara Ross, Author, Enlightened Democracy: The Case for the Electoral College

, , , , , , , ,

http://vimeo.com/40636737
Amendment XII:

The Electors shall meet in their respective states, and vote by ballot for President and Vice-President, one of whom, at least, shall not be an inhabitant of the same state with themselves; they shall name in their ballots the person voted for as President, and in distinct ballots the person voted for as Vice-President, and they shall make distinct lists of all persons voted for as President, and of all persons voted for as Vice-President and of the number of votes for each, which lists they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the seat of the government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate;

The President of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates and the votes shall then be counted;

The person having the greatest Number of votes for President, shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed; and if no person have such majority, then from the persons having the highest numbers not exceeding three on the list of those voted for as President, the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by states, the representation from each state having one vote; a quorum for this purpose shall consist of a member or members from two-thirds of the states, and a majority of all the states shall be necessary to a choice. And if the House of Representatives shall not choose a President whenever the right of choice shall devolve upon them, before the fourth day of March next following, then the Vice-President shall act as President, as in the case of the death or other constitutional disability of the President.

The person having the greatest number of votes as Vice-President, shall be the Vice-President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed, and if no person have a majority, then from the two highest numbers on the list, the Senate shall choose the Vice-President; a quorum for the purpose shall consist of two-thirds of the whole number of Senators, and a majority of the whole number shall be necessary to a choice. But no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice-President of the United States.

Amendment XII: A Tie in the Electoral College

Anti-Electoral College activists sometimes worry that the presidential election could end in a tie. Such a scenario, they might grouse, would create a “stalemate” and could even lead to “The Apocalypse.”

But an electoral tie has occurred already. This election did not result in the Apocalypse, but, as yesterday’s post discussed, there were a few days of congressional stalemate before a President was elected. The then-new nation did not devolve into chaos and rioting. Instead, the biggest consequence of the electoral tie was the Twelfth Amendment. These provisions replaced Article II, Section I, Clause 3 of the Constitution and make it harder (but not impossible) for a presidential election to end in a tie.

The Twelfth Amendment works hand-in-hand with the still operative Article II, Section I, Clause 2: This clause makes each state responsible for deciding how to appoint its own electors. In early elections, state legislatures employed a wide variety of methods—sometimes even selecting electors on their own. Today, all states conduct statewide popular elections for this purpose.

In short, when you go to the polls on Election Day, you are not voting for presidential candidates, even if it seems that way. In reality, you are voting for a slate of individuals, called electors. Most states award their electors in a “winner-take-all” fashion, so the winner of the state receives the state’s entire slate of electors. As an example, Barack Obama “won” the State of Rhode Island in 2008. But what that really meant is that four Democratic electors—not Obama himself—were elected by Rhode Islanders on that day.

The Twelfth Amendment dictates the constitutional responsibilities of electors. The primary responsibility of these Rhode Island electors, along with other electors from the remaining states, was to represent their states in a second election—the real presidential election.

This election among states’ electors occurs on a congressionally designated day in December. The Twelfth Amendment requires that each elector cast two ballots: one for a presidential candidate and one for a vice-presidential candidate. This requirement was a change from the Article II provision, which did not allow electors to distinguish between their votes for President and Vice-President. Both Article II and the Twelfth Amendment require that electors cast at least one ballot for someone who is not “an inhabitant of the same state with themselves.”

In practice, this means that a political party will handicap itself if it nominates presidential and vice-presidential candidates from the same state, because it automatically loses some votes from the home state of one candidate. In 2000, this provision caused Dick Cheney to make a point of establishing his residence in Wyoming. Had both Cheney and George W. Bush hailed from Texas, those electors would have been unable to vote for Cheney and Bush simultaneously.

After electors cast their ballots, their votes are recorded on “Certificates of Vote,” one of which goes to the President of the Senate, as required by the Twelfth Amendment. The President of the Senate presides over a joint session of Congress on January 6, and the votes are counted publicly at that time.

To be elected President, a candidate needs a majority of electoral votes. At this time, 270 votes constitute a majority of the Electoral College and will win the presidency for a candidate. If no candidate wins a majority, the Twelfth Amendment provides a back-up method for presidential selection. In this secondary election, the election of the President is sent to the House and the election of the Vice-President is sent to the Senate.

In the House vote, the Twelfth Amendment provides that each state delegation is granted one vote. (This remains unchanged from the original Article II procedure.) California, with its current delegation of fifty-three Congressmen, would cast one vote, as would South Dakota, with its single Congressman. A President is elected when one candidate wins a majority of states. Article II had allowed the House to choose from the top five presidential candidates (or two in the event of certain ties), but the Twelfth Amendment now requires the House to choose from only the top three presidential candidates.

The Twelfth Amendment also added a new procedure for election of the Vice-President: In the event that no candidate receives a majority, the Senate chooses from the top two vice-presidential candidates. Each Senator has one vote; Senators may vote for either of the top two vice- presidential contenders.

This system exists largely as it was originally proposed by the Constitutional Convention. The Twelfth Amendment tweaked the process, but substantively left the original procedure in place. Unfortunately, this system is now under attack.

The National Popular Vote movement seeks to convince a critical mass of states to award its electors to the winner of the national popular vote, instead of the winner of each state’s popular vote. NPV asks states to sign an interstate compact—basically, a contract—promising to take such action if enough other states sign on. If the movement succeeds, the constitutional election processes described in the Twelfth Amendment will remain only in theory. In practice, they will be gone. Instead, Presidents will be selected through a direct election system.

Surely the Founders would be disappointed in such a result. The Electoral College was a compromise between large and small state delegates at the Constitutional Convention. The delegates wanted the voice of the people to be reflected in the presidential election process, but they also recognized the need to protect minority groups—especially the small states—from the tyranny of the majority. Just as the composition of Congress reflected compromises between the large and small states, so did the presidential election procedure. Even the House contingent election, so disparaged by Electoral College opponents, was an important part of this compromise because of the advantage that it gave to small states.

The delegates would view efforts to abandon the Electoral College as unwise. Max Farrand reports on the delegates’ views in The Framing of the Constitution of the United States: “[F]or of all things done in the convention the members seemed to have been prouder of that than of any other, and they seemed to regard it as having solved the problem for any country of how to choose a chief magistrate.”

Yes, the Electoral College is the solution for any country and any decade. The system that has served Americans so well for so long will continue to do so. If we let it.

Tara Ross is the author of Enlightened Democracy: The Case for the Electoral College. More information about Tara can be found at www.taraross.com or on Facebook or Twitter.

April 18, 2012 – Essay #43 – Amendment XII: Reforming the Electoral College – Guest Essayist: Tara Ross, Author, Enlightened Democracy: The Case for the Electoral College

, , , , , , , , , , ,

http://vimeo.com/40570764
Amendment XII:

The Electors shall meet in their respective states, and vote by ballot for President and Vice-President, one of whom, at least, shall not be an inhabitant of the same state with themselves; they shall name in their ballots the person voted for as President, and in distinct ballots the person voted for as Vice-President, and they shall make distinct lists of all persons voted for as President, and of all persons voted for as Vice-President and of the number of votes for each, which lists they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the seat of the government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate;

The President of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates and the votes shall then be counted;

The person having the greatest Number of votes for President, shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed; and if no person have such majority, then from the persons having the highest numbers not exceeding three on the list of those voted for as President, the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by states, the representation from each state having one vote; a quorum for this purpose shall consist of a member or members from two-thirds of the states, and a majority of all the states shall be necessary to a choice. And if the House of Representatives shall not choose a President whenever the right of choice shall devolve upon them, before the fourth day of March next following, then the Vice-President shall act as President, as in the case of the death or other constitutional disability of the President.

The person having the greatest number of votes as Vice-President, shall be the Vice-President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed, and if no person have a majority, then from the two highest numbers on the list, the Senate shall choose the Vice-President; a quorum for the purpose shall consist of two-thirds of the whole number of Senators, and a majority of the whole number shall be necessary to a choice. But no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice-President of the United States.

Amendment XII: Reforming the Electoral College

America’s first four presidential elections were governed by Article II of the Constitution. The process worked well initially, which is perhaps unsurprising in retrospect. Nearly everyone expected that the revered General George Washington would be the nation’s first President. These expectations came to fruition when he was unanimously elected twice, in 1789 and 1792. The first contested presidential election did not occur until 1796.

This contested election nearly revealed a flaw in the voting process. But the next election, in 1800, brought the flaw more sharply into view, and it laid the groundwork for the introduction and ratification of the Twelfth Amendment. The provisions of this Amendment would replace Article II, Section 1, Clause 3 of the Constitution.

The problem stemmed from the fact that the original constitutional provision did not allow presidential electors to differentiate between their votes for President and Vice-President. Electors were simply expected to cast two ballots for President. When these votes were tallied, the first place winner became President and the second place winner became Vice-President. Such a process made sense in 1787, before the appearance of political parties. It made less sense after, as demonstrated during the election of 1800.

That year, the Democratic-Republican Party nominated Thomas Jefferson for President and Aaron Burr for Vice-President; the Federalist Party nominated John Adams and Charles Pinckney. Today, such nominations might seem rather routine, but in 1800, the practice of nominating separate candidates for President and Vice-President was relatively new.

When the vote was tallied, it was discovered that Jefferson and Burr had tied. Although the electors had intended to elect Jefferson for President and Burr for Vice-President, they were not permitted to distinguish between their votes for the two offices. The result was an electoral tie that threw the election into the Constitution’s secondary election procedure, known as the House contingent election.

At the time, the House was still controlled by the outgoing Federalist Party. Many Federalists did not like Jefferson and hoped to thwart his election by supporting Burr. Meanwhile, the Democratic-Republican congressmen continued to support their intended presidential candidate, Jefferson. A stalemate continued for the better part of a week. Neither Jefferson nor Burr could obtain the nine state votes needed for victory. Six days and thirty-six ballots later, one Congressman finally yielded, paving the way for Jefferson’s victory.

In the wake of such events, it was not long before a constitutional amendment was proposed to separate the voting for President and Vice- President. Such a solution might seem obvious to modern ears, but it was controversial in the early 1800s. The minority party, the Federalists, argued that the election process, as it then stood, made it possible for the minority party to have a representative in the executive branch. Some Democratic-Republicans also hesitated to change the election procedure. The Article II process had helped them in 1796 when John Adams, a Federalist, was elected President. Despite Adams’s victory, Jefferson had been able to defeat the Federalist vice presidential candidate, Thomas Pinckney.

The proposed constitutional amendment failed to pass the Senate by a single vote when it was first proposed in 1801. In 1803, however, the Twelfth Amendment finally gained enough support to pass both the Senate and the House. North Carolina became the first state to ratify the amendment on December 21, 1803. The amendment became effective when New Hampshire ratified it on June 15, 1804. Tennessee ratified it later, on July 27, 1804. Three states rejected the amendment.

The election process was tweaked and adjusted following the election of 1800, yet today it remains largely as the Founders created it. As a first step, the states cast electoral votes in the nationwide presidential election. If no candidate wins a majority of these state votes, then the House of Representatives must decide which of the top candidates will be the next President.

Tomorrow’s post will explain how this process—created by Article II and slightly modified by the Twelfth Amendment—continues to operate in presidential elections today.

Tara Ross is the author of Enlightened Democracy: The Case for the Electoral College. More information about Tara can be found at www.taraross.com or on Facebook or Twitter.