Constitutional FAQ Answer #74
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Q74. "The wording of the 12th amendment implies
that the election of the Vice President is completely separate from that of the
President. Should we not be able to vote for our choice of Vice President
regardless of party affiliation? How long has this been going on?
A. The elections of President and Vice President are separate... in the
Electoral College. Each elector submits a ballot for each. The key to your
question is how are the electors chosen?
Each state can have its own rules, so I cannot speak to them all. Here in
Vermont, we vote for a pair of names, nominating an elector who is, in theory
at least, pledged to vote in the College for one person for President and
for another for Vice President.
In truth, the people don't even need to be granted the right to vote for
President and Vice President (though any state legislature that tried to take
that right away would likely be impeached). Article 2, Section 1 says, in part:
Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature
thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators
and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress:
The 12th Amendment changes nothing in how
electors are selected — just that there be separate ballots for President and
Vice President. Prior to that, the President was the person with the most
votes, and the Vice President was that person with the next most votes (with
some caveats thrown in for non-majority and tie votes).
Once the general election has been held, and we've all voted for our
electors, the Electoral College meets, casts its votes, transmits them to the
President of the Senate, and that's that for another four years.