The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday comes from the Twelfth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States: “… the President of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates and the votes shall then be counted….”
W. Cleon Skousen explained, “This provision gives the president of the Senate the RIGHT to count the ballots, and it gives the Congress – meeting in joint session – the RIGHT to observe the opening of the ballots and the counting of the votes for each candidate.
“In this modern electronic age, the official counting of the ballots in the presence of the entire House and Senate merely confirms in a tangible way what the country has known ever since the day after the election. Nevertheless, it is a very impressive ceremony as the president of the Senate officially announces who will be inaugurated two weeks later on January 20.” (See The Making of America – The Substance and Meaning of the Constitution, p. 725.)
Charles Fried of The Heritage Foundation explained, “The Twelfth Amendment, the last to be proposed by the Founding generation, was proposed for ratification in December 1803 and was ratified in 1804, in time for the presidential election that year. The previous system had yielded, in the election of 1796, Federalist John Adam’s election as President, while his bitter rival and sometimes-close friend, Republican Thomas Jefferson, was elected Vice President. In the election of 1800, Republican electors, though they clearly preferred Jefferson, sought to guarantee that Republicans won both offices, and cast seventy-three electoral votes for both Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr. This threw the election into the House of Representatives, where it was only resolved (in Jefferson’s favor) on the thirty-sixth ballot. The hardening of party lines and concomitant voting by party slates (which the Framers had not contemplated) and some dissatisfaction with the way in which electors were chosen in the states led to proposals for change, including a proposal that electors be chosen in separate electoral districts in each state. However, the only change successfully accomplished was that of separate voting for President and Vice President.
“Although it remains theoretically possible for the Vice President to be someone other than the person designated by the President and his party, the Adams-Jefferson scenario under which the top two presidential candidates must together form a partnership in the executive branch is now much more unlikely….” (See The Heritage Guide to the Constitution, p. 378.)