Amendment XII – Election of President and Vice-President (1804)

The Twelfth Amendment sets forth the procedure for the election of the President and the Vice President of the United States.  Prior to the Amendment, the President and the Vice President of the United States were elected by a single ballot.  In this regard, the person who received the largest number of vote, if more than half, was elected as the President and the person who received the next highest was elected the Vice President.  This system, however, was suspended by the twelfth amendment in 1804.

Under the Twelfth Amendment, each elector now casts a separate vote for the President and the Vice President.  Specifically, the Twelfth Amendment of the Constitution states: “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 and the Vice President are elected by the Electoral College consisting of popularly elected representatives.  Corresponding to the number of Senators and Representatives in the U.S. Congress, every state is assigned a number of Electoral College electors.  Apart from that, a number of electors equal to the number held by the smallest state are given to Washington, D.C.  The territories of United States are not represented in the Electoral College. 

The Twelfth Amendment modified the way by which the Electoral College elects the President and the Vice President.  Although the inhabitant clause of the Twelfth Amendment strongly supports that the President and the Vice President should not be from the same state, it does not disqualify a President or a Vice President for being from the same state.  However, the provision disqualifies the electors from that same state from voting for both offices.  Before the Presidential elections of the year 2000, candidates George W. Bush and Dick Cheney lived and voted in Texas.  In order to avoid any trouble, Cheney registered to vote in Wyoming, his previous place of residence.

By the Twelfth Amendment, the rule stating that the President shall be chosen from among the top five candidates was varied.  As per the new provision, the President is selected by the House of Representatives from the top three candidates.  Equal weight is given to all states.  The vote within the House is not by representative, but by state.  Therefore chances are more that the candidate who obtains the majority of the popular vote may not be the winner.

As per the twelfth amendment, the Presidential candidate must be a natural born citizen.  The candidate must have completed thirty-five years of age and have been residing in the United States for fourteen years.  Any person who is ineligible to become the President in accordance to the Constitution is not qualified to be the Vice President.

Ratification of the Twelfth Amendment was completed on June 15, 1804.  The Supreme Court has treated the Twelfth Amendment as evidence of the decentralization of the presidential election process.


Inside Amendment XII – Election of President and Vice-President (1804)