Sunday, July 11, 2004

The Original Purpose of the V.P.

Briefly taking us through the Constitutional Convention, Walter Berns cover reminds us why we have a vice president: to insure that the president would be elected by the electoral college and not the senate.

Each member of the electoral college was originally given two votes for president, one of which had to be placed for a candidate outside of the state from which the electoral college member hailed; not until the Twelfth Amendment in 1804 was one of the votes supposed to be for vice president. The establishment of a vice president who would succeed the president in the event of death or removal would persuade the elector not to "throw away" the second vote on a nonentity (after presumably using the first for a someone in his state), but to choose a preeminent man from some other state. Throwing away the second vote virtually guaranteed that no candidate would receive an electoral college majority and that the election would be decided by the senate.

So the vice president, a relatively meaningless office, was originally introduced at the convention in order to insure the election of the president by the electoral college.


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