(FiveNation.com) – The 12th Amendment outlines the process of elections within the United States. While elections did occur before this amendment, there were issues with the process. Thus, the 12th Amendment was created as a remedy and to provide a clearer path for the electoral process.
Previous to this amendment, there was no room for sticking to a party and it was entirely possible for someone who got the least number of votes to end up as President of the United States. This amendment also prevents anyone who could not be president from being placed in the position of being vice-president.
Original Electoral Terms
The terms for the election previous to the 12th Amendment were a bit different than they are now, so it’s useful to outline them. After all, the election of 1800 exposed a fatal fallacy, which was the catalyst for the new amendment to be written. To understand some of these terms, know that when “majority” applies, it doesn’t mean “most,” but rather it means more than half.
Originally, voters in the electoral college would vote for two people they thought were qualified to be president. This was done in case the vice-president had to step up and fill the role of president.
Of their votes, at least one had to go to someone outside of the voter’s place of residence. Whoever got the most votes would win the presidency, while the person with the second-highest tally would win the vice presidency. However, to be victorious, they had to win the majority. Otherwise, the House of Representatives would vote from a list of the top five candidates so that there was one vote per state. The same would happen if there was a tie.
Election of 1800
In the election of 1800, John Adams ran for president with Charles Pinkney as a running mate, both as Federalists. On the opposing side was Thomas Jefferson for president, with Aaron Burr, both running as Democratic-Republicans.
Federalists, not wanting a tie between their candidates, did not all vote for both Adams and Pinkney. But, the Democrat-Republicans did vote for both of their candidates, creating a tie between the two — they both held the majority, but also had an equal number of votes. The House chose Jefferson, but an issue in the voting process had been revealed.
12th Amendment Changes
In 1803, the 12th Amendment was proposed and did not go unchallenged. It wasn’t until 1804 that it was ratified and added to the Constitution. Now, there was a line drawn between the vote for the presidency and the one for the vice-presidency.
The winner must win the majority. If not, the House of Representatives chooses the president from the top three candidates and the Senate chooses the vice-president from the top two.
Without the 12th Amendment, our election process would look very different today.
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