Twelfth Amendment to the United States Constitution
The Twelfth Amendment (Amendment XII) to the United States Constitution was proposed in Congress on December 9, 1803. It was ratified by the state legislatures on June 15, 1804. It provided new procedures for electing the President and Vice President. Before the amendment, each member of the Electoral College cast a single vote. The candidate who received the largest number of votes became the President. The candidate receiving the next highest number of votes became the Vice President. The Twelfth Amendment changed the process to the current system whereby one vote is cast for the President and one for the Vice President.
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.
The Constitutional Convention of 1787 went over several different proposals for electing the President. Some wanted Congress to choose the President. Other suggestions included selection by the state legislatures, by the state governors or by a congressional committee. Near the end of the convention the question was turned over to a committee called the Committee of Eleven for leftover business. They devised a system called the Electoral College. The plan was accepted and was added to the Constitution.
In 1789, the Electoral College unanimously elected George Washington as the first president. He was reelected in 1792. In both cases he was the only president to receive all of the electoral votes. In the 1796 election, Washington declined to run. His Vice President, John Adams, and his running mate Thomas Pinckney ran for President and Vice President respectively. Alexander Hamilton tried to use his influence to get Pinckney more votes, making Adams the Vice President again. But the scheme backfired when Thomas Jefferson got more votes than Pinckney, but Adams won more of the electoral votes. This made Adams the President and Jefferson the Vice President.
The 1800 Presidential election showed the deep problems in the electoral college system. Jefferson ran against Adams again. Both had running mates. Pinckney was again the running mate of Adams for the Federalist Party. Aaron Burr was Jefferson's running mate for the Democratic-Republican Party. Jefferson and Burr received the same number of votes creating a tie between two candidates from the same political party. Under the Constitution, the matter was to be decided by the House of Representatives. In the House, the two tied again in 35 votes. Only on the 36th ballot was the deadlock broken and Jefferson was elected president.
The solution to the problem became the Twelfth Amendment. It was proposed by Congress on December 9, 1803. Three days later it was submitted to the states for ratification. Fourteen of the seventeen states (at the time) ratified it and the amendment was added to the Constitution on September 25, 1804.
The Electoral College remained much the same under the Twelfth Amendment. But the process for choosing a president and vice president changed. Under the Twelfth Amendment an elector must cast separate votes for the President and Vice President. If nobody gets the majority of the votes, the process remains the same as before; the House of Representatives decides.
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