A Page from Our Book

Page 24 – Vote by Ballot for Two Persons

Each Elector was to vote by ballot for two persons. Do we have any evidence that there was a pre-printed ballot? Of course not. That would pre-suppose a separate nominating process. Each Elector wrote down two names. In other words they named or nominated two candidates for president. Every time we write-in a candidate we nominate that candidate. The existence of pre-printed ballots would be proof that there was a separate nominating process. If a separate nominating process existed and that process were not described in detail in the Constitution, that fact alone would be evidence of a serious design flaw in the Constitution.

If the Electors as a body were to make the final decision for president, the original Constitution would have required each Elector to make a final decision—that is to vote for only one candidate. The very fact that each Elector was to submit two equal choices, is strong evidence that the Electors’ duty was to nominate candidates for a separate and subsequent final vote. This evidence therefore stands in direct opposition to the concept that the Electors were to make the final decision. Electoral votes were to be nominating votes, not deciding votes.

We have found that mentioning the word nominate seems to excite opposition and resistance. Nevertheless, when we examine more closely the process we see that originally it was intended to be a nomination. In the Constitutional Convention on September 5, 1787, as the mode of election of the President was getting close to the final design, Roger Sherman from Connecticut, and Rufus King from Massachusetts, made statements showing that the Electors were to nominate presidential candidates.

According to James Madison’s notes on Sept. 5, Mr. Sherman used the word nomination to show that the Senate (changed to the House in the final design) would choose from the candidates nominated by the Electors:

Mr. SHERMAN reminded the opponents of the new mode proposed that if the small states had the advantage in the Senate’s deciding among the five highest candidates, the large States would have in fact the nomination of these candidates (United States – Formation of the Union p. 670)

Although Mr. King did not use the word nomination, he contrasts the concept of nomination with final or deciding vote:

Mr. KING observed that the influence of the Small States in the Senate was somewhat balanced by the influence of the Large States in bringing forward the candidates; (United States – Formation of the Union p. 671)

James Madison made a similar contrast on the previous day, although at that time he was not in favor of the proposal.

Gouverneur Morris, delegate from Pennsylvania, also uses the word nominated in describing the Electors’ role in nominating candidates for the Senate to choose from. Mr. Morris said:

…by this they were limited to five candidates previously nominated to them, with a probability of being barred altogether by the successful ballot of the Electors. (United States – Formation of the Union p. 674)

This fact is further substantiated by the statements of Connecticut Senator Uriah Tracy made during the Senate debate on the 12th Amendment on Dec. 2, 1803. Mr. Tracy, when describing the original intent of the Constitution, uses nominate when he said:

Nothing can be more obvious, than the intention of the plan adopted by our Constitution for choosing a President. The Electors are to nominate two persons, of whom they cannot know which will be president; this circumstance not only induces them to select both from the best men; but gives a direct advantage into the hands of the small states even in the electoral choice. (The Founders’ Constitution vol. 5 p. 464)

Later in the same speech Mr. Tracy clarifies the details of the process when he says: “As the Constitution stands each Elector is to write the names of two persons on a piece of paper called a ballot.” (The Founders’ Constitution vol. 5 p. 467)

– One Not from Their Own State