Presidential Elections

Elections for President and Vice President of the U.S. are indirect elections.  The voters cast ballots for electors of the U.S. Electoral College, who in turn directly elect the President and Vice President.  Presidential elections take place quadrennially.  The process is regulated by a combination of both federal and state laws.  Each state is allocated a number of Electoral College electors equal to the number of its Senators and Representatives in the U.S. Congress.

The President is vested with the executive power of the nation.  The presidential election and the vital character of its relationship to and effect upon the welfare and safety of the whole people is an important matter and Congress possesses power to pass appropriate legislation to safeguard such an election from the improper use of money to influence the result[i].

Pursuant to the Twelfth Amendment, the electors meet in their respective states and vote by ballot for President and Vice-President. They name in their ballots the person voted for as President, and in distinct ballots the person voted for as Vice-President.  They sign, certify, and transmit sealed to the seat of the government of the U.S., directed to the President of the Senate.

The President of the Senate, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates and count the votes. The person having the greatest number of votes for President, should be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed. However, if no person have such majority, then from the persons having the highest numbers not exceeding three on the list of those voted for as President, the House of Representatives choose immediately, by ballot, the President[ii].

But in choosing the President, a quorum should consist of a member or members from two-thirds of the states and a majority of all the states is necessary.

The person having the greatest number of votes as Vice-President should be the Vice-President. However, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed, and if no person has a majority, then from the two highest numbers on the list, the Senate chooses the Vice-President. A quorum for this purpose consists of two-thirds of the whole number of Senators, and a majority of the whole number is necessary.  No person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President is eligible to that of Vice-President of the U.S.

Presidential electors are officers of the state and not federal officers[iii].  The presidential electors exercise a federal function in balloting for President and Vice-President but they are not federal officers or agents any more than the state elector who votes for congressmen[iv].  They act by authority of the state that in turn receives its authority from the Federal Constitution.

By the Constitution of the U.S., the electors for President and Vice President in each state are appointed by the state in such a manner as its legislature may direct[v].  Their number is equal to the whole number of senators and representatives to which the state is entitled in Congress.  The sole function of the presidential electors is to cast, certify, and transmit the vote of the state for President and Vice President of the nation.

[i] Burroughs v. United States, 290 U.S. 534 (U.S. 1934).

[ii] USCS Const. Amend. 12.

[iii] Walker v. United States, 93 F.2d 383 (8th Cir. Mo. 1937).

[iv] Ray v. Blair, 343 U.S. 214 (U.S. 1952).

[v] In re Green, 10 S. Ct. 586 (U.S. 1890).


Inside Presidential Elections