TIL that before the 12th Amendment the Vice President was the Presidential candidate who won the second most votes, instead of a running mate

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‘It does seem odd that the runner up gets to be Vice President’ ‘Yeah we can fix that. Because I’m the President.’


Everyone keeps thinking of the scenario where political rivals end up in office together, but that’s not actually how the system worked. Each Electoral College member had two votes (which is actually still the case, but we’ll get to that) and could vote for their top two candidates. Under most circumstances, members of a particular party would vote for the same two candidates, therefore, the most likely result would be that the president and vice president would be from whichever party had the majority. However, in the first election after Washington, 1796, the US ended up with political rivals in office. This happened because the Federalists, who were united behind John Adams being president had not come to a consensus on whom their vice president pick should be, so Jefferson managed to win more votes than the next highest Federalist candidate. In the 1800 election, there was better coordination, this time Democratic-Republicans held the majority so they all cast their votes for Jefferson and Burr. The problem was, this resulted in a tie, so the vote went to the House of Representatives. Burr attempted to exploit the situation to gain the presidency from under Jefferson, but ultimately it was decided in Jefferson’s favor… after 36 ballots. This led to former running mates becoming harsh rivals just as they entered office. Hamilton convincing Federalists to vote for Jefferson was also one of the reasons for the rivalry between himself and Burr that led to their duel. The 12th Amendment made it so that Electoral College members still have two votes, but one is for the president and the other for the vice president.


Seems that would tamp down a lot of the hyper partisanship. Compromise built right into the structure of the executive— which seems to be hungry for ever more power. Edit: I see the hundreds of you raising the assassination issue. At any rate— thanks for an interesting conversation! I hope all of you, if eligible, exercise your right to vote. Speaking out and activism are very important… but go vote 🗳


So we would have had President Biden and Vice President Trump? Sounds like that would make the risk of assassination too high…


Yep, I told people this little fun fact for years and they didn’t believe me. I would be in favor of it. The founders wanted people to have their votes represented and this was their method.