The Election-Related Amendments of the US Constitution

The Election-Related Amendments of the US Constitution
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  • 0:01 Definition of Terms
  • 0:35 Amendments 12 & 17
  • 1:58 Amendments 20 & 22
  • 3:21 Amendments 23 & 25
  • 4:07 Amendment 27
  • 4:43 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica Whittemore

Jessica has taught junior high history and college seminar courses. She has a master's degree in education.

This lesson will define the term ''amendment'' in reference to the United States Constitution. It will then focus on election procedures as delineated in Amendments 12, 17, 20, 22, 23, 25, & 27.

Definition of Terms

Unlike so many in the world, Americans have the privilege and right to elect their leaders. Today, we'll take a look at some of the constitutional amendments that explain this system of freedom.

For starters, an amendment is simply a modification to the Constitution. An amendment is ratified when it is signed and made official. Today, we'll be taking a look at the 12th, 17th, 20th, 22nd, 23rd, 25th, and 27th Amendments.

Amendments 12 & 17

Let's start with the 12th Amendment. Ratified in 1804, the 12th Amendment deals with the Electoral College. The Electoral College is a body of people representing the states of the US, who formally cast votes for the election of the president and vice president.

Stating it simply, each state has a certain number of electoral votes. Whichever candidate wins the majority of the popular votes is then supposed to get all the electoral votes from the state. According to the 12th Amendment, each member of the Electoral College must cast a vote for the president and the vice president. For us, the important thing to remember is that the 12th Amendment deals with the Electoral College. To remember this one, we can say, 'After the 12th grade, comes college!'

The 17th Amendment proclaims that senators will be elected directly by the people of their state. Prior to being ratified in 1913, senators were usually elected by the state lawmakers and not by direct popular vote. This all changed with the 17th Amendment.

Now, senators get to go to Washington by popular vote. However, if a senator can't fulfill his or her term, the governor of the state can, with permission from the state lawmakers, temporarily appoint a replacement. Using some good 'ole alliteration, we can remember that the 17th is all about the senators!

Amendments 20 & 22

The 20th Amendment was ratified in 1933. It deals with the dates of office for the president and senators. According to the 20th, newly elected members of Congress take office on January 3rd and must convene at least once a year. It also states that a newly elected president will take office on January 20th. Quite serendipitously, we can remember that the 20th says, 'The president takes office on the 20th.'

Ratified in 1951, the 22nd Amendment limits the president to 2 terms or 10 years. Explaining the '10 years' part of the amendment, let's say the vice president had to step in and take over 2 years of the former president's term. If it was only 2 years, the VP can then go onto serve 2 terms as president. Since a term is 4 years that would be 8 of his own plus the 2 he stepped in for. Since 8 + 2 = 10, all is well and good. However, if the VP stepped in for 3 years of his predecessor's term, he or, of course, she could only have his own presidency for 1 term. Since two terms, or 8 + 3 = 11, he would be over the 10-year limit.

Working to keep things simple, let's just remember that 22 puts the limit to two.

Amendments 23 & 25

The 23rd Amendment gave Washington, D.C. an Electoral College vote. Being ratified in 1961, it put D.C. on the same plane as the states. Since the states get their own electoral votes, why shouldn't Washington, D.C. be free to have the same? Stretching things a bit, we can remember 23 made D.C. free!

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