An Amended Administration

Washington Post

Whether George W. Bush or Al Gore ends up winning the presidency, the Constitution charts a course for him to carve out with one bold strike of bipartisanship the best conceivable way of pulling the country together.

If Bush wins, the 12th Amendment not only permits but explicitly requires that–under the present unprecedented circumstances–Joe Lieberman be chosen as vice president.

That’s right. It would be the Bush-Lieberman administration, not the Bush-Cheney administration. This would be a wise resolution of the controversy in any event: Bush and Lieberman are well suited to work as a team to overcome the partisan bitterness that could consume either a Bush-Cheney or a Gore-Lieberman administration.

The 12th Amendment, ratified in 1804, begins: "The Electors shall meet in their respective states, and vote by ballot for President and Vice President, one of whom, at least, shall not be an inhabitant of the same state with themselves." This means that no Texas elector can vote for both George Bush and Richard Cheney because both are "inhabitants" of Texas. And in an election this close, that means that Bush or Cheney can be elected but not both.

It was this 12th Amendment language that prompted Cheney’s hasty change of voting registration to Wyoming. But the Constitution is not so easily circumvented. The purpose of the quoted language was to prevent one big state from using its votes in the Electoral College to capture both the presidency and the vice presidency. If, for example, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison of Virginia had run as a ticket, the 12th Amendment would have barred Virginia’s electors from voting for both. It is inconceivable that Madison could have avoided this result by moving to North Carolina a few months before the election.

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