G CS 12

Basic Principles of the U.S. Constitution

Principles related to representative democracy are reflected in the articles and amendments of the U.S. Constitution and provide structure for the government of the United States.

Content Statement

12. Five amendments have altered provisions for presidential election, terms and succession to address changing historical circumstances.

Content Elaborations

Constitutional provisions related to the executive branch of the federal government have been frequent subjects for amendment. The amendments have responded to events impacting presidential elections, terms and succession.

Amendment 12 altered the procedures of the Electoral College. The change allowed separate balloting for president and vice president to avoid a tie in electoral votes, as happened in the election of 1800.

The main provisions of Amendment 20 shortened the time between elections and when presidents and members of Congress take office. These changes reflected the improvements in transportation which allowed for easier travel to Washington and also reflected the desire to avoid “lame duck” periods in the transition from one administration or session to another.

Amendment 22 imposed a two-term limit on presidential terms. This amendment was passed following the four-term presidency of Franklin Roosevelt to institutionalize the two- term tradition established by George Washington.

Amendment 23 provided electors for the District of Columbia. The Electoral College was originally based upon electors representing states. As the population of the District of Columbia grew, it was decided that the residents there deserved to have the opportunity to vote for electors in presidential elections.

Presidential succession and disability were addressed by Amendment 25. Lyndon B. Johnson, who had a history of heart problems, took office following the assassination of John F. Kennedy. As with other presidential successions, this left the office of the vice president vacant. The 25th Amendment clarified that a successor to the presidency was designated as President of the United States and included provisions for filling the office of Vice President. It also outlined procedures to be used in case of presidential disability.

Expectations for Learning

Explain the historical circumstances surrounding the adoption of constitutional amendments pertaining to presidential election, terms and succession.