Ben Miller Mr.
Mckown Government05 December 2017Presidential Amendments Five amendments have been added to the Constitution of the United States that change previous rules regarding presidential elections, term lengths, and succession. These amendments were enacted in order to address new and previously unseen circumstances that revealed problems with the preceding processes and laws. The five amendments, which include amendments 12, 20, 22, 23, and 25, have had lasting effects to most of the country’s traditional presidential processes. Problems faced in the 1796 and 1800 presidential elections involving the original procedure electing the president and vice president prompted the creation and passing of the Twelfth Amendment, which requires electors of the electoral college to cast one vote for president and one for vice president. Prior to the amendment’s passage, the electors were unable to indicate which of their two votes was for the president and which was for vice president. Electors did not even necessarily have to cast two votes.
It was also not permitted for an elector to vote for two people that came from the same state as that elector. This rule was designed so that electors would not purposefully vote for candidates simply because they were from their home state (1). In the original procedure, if a single candidate received a majority of votes, they won.
When more than one person gained a majority of the electoral votes, the power of choosing the president went to the House of Representatives. If no one obtained a majority, the House of Representatives would choose the five people with the most votes and make a decision from there. In the last two scenarios, in which the majority of the votes of the electors did not go to a single candidate, the House of Representatives was required. The person with the greatest number of electoral votes besides the president was automatically appointed as vice president. Unlike the president, the vice president did not require the majority vote of electors.
In the 1796 presidential election, the Federalist Party’s John Adams and Thomas Jefferson of the Democratic-Republican Party both ran for president. John Adams got a majority of the electoral votes, becoming president. However, Thomas Jefferson got second place in the vote tally, making him vice president. This would’ve left the president with a vice president of the opposing party. At this point in time, the position of “running mate” had not yet been established; candidates ran independently. In the following presidential election in 1800, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson had a rematch.
The two candidates, however, ended up tied in votes. This gridlock was eventually broken and Thomas Jefferson became the president of the United States on February 17th, 1801. After these two troublesome election results, it was agreed that the Constitution needed to be amended. The Twelfth Amendment was then created and passed by Congress on December 9th, 1803. The amendment was then ratified the following year on June 15th. The amendment replaced the original procedure as outlined in Article II, Section 1, Clause 3. The Twelfth Amendment made it a requirement that electors cast separate ballots for the president and vice president, as opposed to two votes for president.
The amendment states that it is necessary for a vice presidential candidate to receive most of the vice presidential votes in order to become vice president under the Electoral College. The Twelfth Amendment provides that if no candidate for vice president obtains a majority of the votes, than the Senate chooses the vice president, with each Senator having one vote. While the amendment did not change the procedure for when more than one person got a majority, keeping the power of choosing the president to the House of Representatives, it did change the procedure for when no one gained a majority. Instead of choosing the top five people with the highest number of electoral votes, the Twelfth Amendment made it so that the House of Representatives choose and select a president from the top three. The Twelfth Amendment also, in order to prevent the country from being without a leader during any possible problematic gridlocks, made it so that if no one was president on March 4th after an election, the vice president would act as the president until any problems have been resolved. In addition, the Twelfth Amendment states that “no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of president shall be eligible to that of vice president of the United States”, meaning that the constitutional requirements for president apply to the vice president as well. All presidential elections from 1804 onward have been managed under the requirements set by the Twelfth Amendment. The Twentieth Amendment was added to the Constitution of the United States after problems arose that stemmed from an awkward four-month wait following a presidential candidate’s election and that president-elect’s inauguration.
The amendment changed the beginning and ending date for the term of the president and vice president from March 4th to January 20th. The Twentieth Amendment also changed the beginning and ending date for Congressional terms for Congress members. Before the amendment’s official ratification on January 23rd, 1933, the original term scheduling included a lengthy, four-month period between the president’s election and inauguration that resulted in problems not only for the president and vice president but for senators and representatives of Congress. This period is commonly known today as the “lame duck” period.
Over time, before the amendment’s passage, many changes were made to the specific dates as to when the terms of elected officials should end and when meetings of Congress should take place. In the beginning, the Constitution set a specific duration for how long the terms of elected officials should last. However, no specific dates were given on when the terms should begin or end.
The Constitution also did not give dates for when presidential elections should take place. Later, after the Constitution of the United States had been officially ratified, March 4th was set as the date for when the terms of recently elected officials should begin, despite new administrations and Congresses not beginning operation until a few months later, usually in April. As for presidential elections, it did not take long for more specific dates to be adopted: by the time the second presidential election of the nation occurred in 1792, Congress had passed a law making it so that the presidential elections happened in either November or early December. This was eventually changed to a single day in November. While the four-month waiting period between presidential elections and inaugurations was most likely considered necessary in the country’s early stages in the late 1700s and early 1800s, due to presidents and other elected officials requiring the time to both organize their incoming administration and to make the long journey from their home to the nation’s capital, in modern-day situations the length of the lame duck period only served as a hindrance to the government’s ability to operate properly.
Not only was the lame duck period awkward and troublesome for the elected president-elect and their administration, but also to Congress. Since Article I, Section 4, Clause 2 of the Constitution instructed that congressional meetings had to occur after the presidential election but before the terms of members of Congress ended, ‘lame duck sessions’ were done. Because the next meeting wasn’t required until the following December, some newly elected members of Congress did not actually begin working until a whole year later.
Perhaps the greatest problem caused by the lame duck period, however, was that the new administration and Congress failed miserably to properly react and take care of sudden major crises and disasters. Two events specifically revealed the glaring fallacies of the waiting period, the first in 1861 and the second in 1933. In 1861, Abraham Lincoln and his administration was forced to wait four months before they could deal with the southern states succeeding. Similarly, in 1933, the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration had to wait to confront the Great Depression. Congress proposed the Twentieth Amendment on March 2nd, 1932.
It was ratified on January 23rd, 1933 (2). The amendment changed the dates for when the terms of the president and vice president shall begin and end from March 4th to January 20th. The exact time the term ends or begins is noon. The term beginning and end dates were also changed for members of Congress, from March 4th to January 3rd. The Twentieth Amendment removed to need for lame duck sessions by moving the dates for congressional sessions from December to January 3rd. The Twentieth Amendment also outlined what would happen in the events that a president-elect could not assume office on inauguration day or if who won an election had not yet been resolved. According to the amendment, the incoming Congress, instead of the one still in power, has the ability to choose who will be the next president if there is still no winner by inauguration day. If the president-elect cannot assume office, then the vice president is required to be president.
The Twenty-second Amendment was made an addition to the Constitution in order to set term limits for presidents. Before the amendment passed, the concept of setting term limits had been regularly discussed by many but was never a real issue. When George Washington decided not to go on for a third term, many believed he had purposefully set a two-term tradition. Washington, however, stated that he only served two terms because of his age, not to set a tradition (3). Despite this, most presidents following Thomas Jefferson adhered to the two-term tradition. While there was clearly talk of two-term limits before the Twenty-second Amendment, the amendment was still undoubtedly a direct result and reaction to Franklin D. Roosevelt serving a previously unimaginable four terms.
President Roosevelt did not serve his full fourth term, however: he died 82 days into his fourth term from a condition known as cerebral bleed. Although Franklin D. Roosevelt was the first ever, and last, president to go beyond two terms, it was actually not the first time a president had at least tried to be reelected to a third term. Ulysses S. Grant attempted to run for a third term but lost the party’s nomination to James Garfield. Later Theodore Roosevelt tried to seek a third, non consecutive term, but lost to Democratic candidate Woodrow Wilson. The Twenty-second Amendment was proposed by Congress on March 21st, 1947. It was ratified and added to the Constitution on February 27th, 1951.
The changes outlined in the amendment are rather simple and brusquely put; according to the Twenty-second Amendment, “no person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice”. Since the amendment’s adoption, six presidents have served two full terms. The Twenty-third Amendment was added to the Constitution to give the federal district, or the District of Columbia, its own electors, as if it were a state. Before the amendment was ratified, the idea of granting the district its own electors was referenced many times. Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, for example, gives Congress the power to “exclusive Legislation” if “such District” was eligible to its own electors (4). Another time was when Congress created a bill in 1890 that would’ve gave the District of Columbia distinct voting rights in presidential elections. This bill never went anywhere.
The problem was that citizens within Washington D.C. could not vote in presidential elections. The proposal that would later become the Twenty-third Amendment was first introduced in 1959. It was not properly proposed as an amendment to the Constitution, however, until June 16th, 1960. It was ratified on March 29th, 1961.
The amendment was considered politically impartial at passage, but after passage the District of Columbia became overwhelmingly Democratic. As a result, the federal district’s three electoral votes have gone to the Democratic presidential candidate every single election cycle, including Ronald Reagan’s landslide victory in 1984. The Twenty-fifth Amendment came into existence in order to address presidential succession. The Twenty-fifth Amendment addressed specifically the rather vague wording of the original Article II, Section 1, Clause 6, which failed to make it clear who could declare a president incapacitated (5).
It also did not mention how to fill a vice presidential vacancy before the succeeding presidential election. This caused some problems over time. In 1841, President Harrison died in office. This caused some confusion as to how the vice president should fill the vacancy, with some thinking Vice President John Tyler should temporarily serve as an ‘Acting President’, while some thought he should be considered an official president. In the end, John Tyler officially became the tenth President of the United States. The office of Vice President has also been left vacant a total of sixteen times.
The Twenty-fifth Amendment was proposed on July 6th, 1965. It was ratified on February 10th, 1967. The amendment made it so that a vice president automatically takes the place of the president should that president be no longer able to serve. As for vice presidential vacancies, the amendment requires the president to nominate a new vice president that will assume the office once confirmed by Congress. IN CONCLUSION, constitutional amendments have been proposed and ratified in order to tackle various new and unforeseen situations that the original limits of the U.S.
Constitution could not or did not properly address. The Twelfth, Twentieth, Twenty-second, Twenty-third, and Twenty-fifth Amendments dealt with problems surrounding presidential election procedures, term limits, and succession. These amendments have had important and lasting effects on many traditional presidential processes, and will continue to do so for as long as the original Constitution of the United States is the law of the land.Sources CitedWilliam C. Kimberling, “The Electoral College – Origins of the Electoral College”, Dave Leip’s Atlas of U.S.
Presidential Elections, December, 2017 Steve Mount, “Ratification of Constitutional Amendments”, U.S. Constitution, December 2017Bruce Peabody, “Presidential Term Limit”, The Heritage Guide to The Constitution, December 2017No Author, “Twenty-third Amendment”, Annenberg Classroom, December 2017D.P McIntire, “The Convention”, Amendment25.com, December 2017