Twelfth Amendment Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that separated the vice presidential and presidential voting in the electoral college, originally formalized in Article II of the Constitution.

The Twelfth Amendment altered the stipulation in Article II of the U.S. Constitution that each elector cast two votes for president, and the candidate receiving the second highest number of votes become vice president. The Twelfth Amendment created separate electoral college votes for president and vice president to ensure that the two offices are held by members of the same party. According to the Twelfth Amendment, when no majority exists, the House of Representatives chooses the president from the three candidates with the highest number of popular votes.Elections

The Twelfth Amendment resulted from the emergence of the two-party systemPolitical party system and the presidential election of 1800 between Republican Thomas Jefferson and Federalist Aaron Burr. Jefferson and Burr received the same number of electoral college votes (73), and the tie turned the election over to the House of Representatives. On February 17, 1801, after thirty-five ballots, the House chose Jefferson as president, but the debate took so long that it aroused fears that there would be no president to take office on inauguration day. This fear led to the quick and overwhelming ratification on July 27, 1804, of the Twelfth Amendment by fourteen of the sixteen states then part of the Union.

Two major Supreme Court cases regarding the Twelfth Amendment are McPherson v. Blacker[case]McPherson v. Blacker[MacPherson v. Blacker] (1892) and Williams v. Rhodes[case]Williams v. Rhodes[Williams v. Rhodes] (1968). In McPherson, the Court was confronted with the argument that state power to appoint electors had been limited by the adoption of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. The Court removed these limitations by ruling that states have power to appoint and select the mode of appointment of their electors. In Williams, which involved a challenge to a series of Ohio statutes, the Court stated that the statutes made it almost impossible for a minor political party to be placed on the state ballot and to choose electors pledged to particular candidates for the presidency and vice presidency of the United States. The Court’s ruling gave legislatures latitude in prescribing the method of choosing electors.

Constitutional amendment process


Fifteenth Amendment

Fourteenth Amendment

Categories: History