In the United States, a contingent election is the procedure used in presidential elections in the case where no candidate wins an absolute majority of votes in the Electoral College, the constitutional mechanism for electing the President and the Vice President of the United States. A contingent election for the president is decided by a vote of the United States House of Representatives, and the contingent election for the vice president is decided by a vote of the United States Senate. The contingent election procedure, along with the other parts of the presidential election process, was first established in Article Two, Section 1, Clause 3 of the United States Constitution, and then modified by the 12th Amendment in 1804.
Contingent elections are extremely rare, having occurred only three times in American history, all in the early 19th century. In 1800, Thomas Jefferson was pitted against his own vice-presidential nominee in a contingent election due to problems with the original electoral procedure. In 1824, the presence of four candidates split the Electoral College, and Andrew Jackson lost the contingent election to John Quincy Adams despite winning a plurality of both the popular and electoral vote. In 1836, faithless electors in Virginia refused to vote for Martin Van Buren's vice-presidential nominee Richard Mentor Johnson, denying him a majority of the electoral vote and forcing the Senate to elect him in a contingent election.
In the United States, the president and vice president are indirectly elected by the Electoral College, which (since ratification of the 23rd Amendment in 1961) consists of 538 presidential electors from the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Presidential electors themselves are directly elected on a state-by-state basis. Since the election of 1824, a majority of the states have chosen their electors on a statewide winner-take-all basis, based on the statewide popular vote on Election Day. Maine and Nebraska are the only two current exceptions, as both states use the congressional district method. Although ballots list the names of the presidential and vice presidential candidates (who run on a ticket), voters actually choose electors when they vote for president and vice president. These presidential electors in turn cast electoral votes for those two offices. Electors usually pledge to vote for their party's nominee, but some "faithless electors" have voted for other candidates.
A candidate must receive an absolute majority of electoral votes (currently 270) to win the presidency or the vice presidency. If no candidate receives a majority in the election for president or vice president, that election is determined via a contingency procedure established by the 12th Amendment. In such a situation, the House chooses one of the top three presidential electoral vote-winners as the president, while the Senate chooses one of the top two vice presidential electoral vote-winners as vice president.
The contingent election process was modified by the 20th Amendment, which took effect in 1933. The amendment greatly reduces the length of lame-duck sessions of Congress. As a result, the lame-duck Congress no longer conducts contingent elections, with the newly-elected Congress instead conducting contingent elections. For example, if a contingent election had been held to determine the outcome of the 1936 presidential election, the 75th United States Congress would have been charged with conducting the contingent election. In the 75th Congress, all members of the House of Representatives, and approximately one-third of the members of the Senate, had been elected in the 1936 elections.
Section 3 of the 20th Amendment specifies that if the House of Representatives has not chosen a president-elect in time for the inauguration (noon on January 20), then the vice president-elect becomes acting president until the House selects a president. Section 3 also specifies that Congress may statutorily provide for who will be acting president if there is neither a president-elect nor a vice president-elect in time for the inauguration. Under the Presidential Succession Act of 1947, the Speaker of the House would become acting president until either the House selects a president or the Senate selects a vice president. None of these situations has ever occurred. The Constitution's silence on this point could have caused a constitutional crisis in the 1801 contingent election, as the House of Representatives seemed for a time to be hopelessly unable to resolve Jefferson–Burr Electoral College deadlock.
Pursuant to the 12th Amendment, the House of Representatives is required to go into session immediately after the counting of the electoral votes to vote for president if no candidate for the office receives a majority of the electoral votes. In this event, the House is limited to choosing from among the three candidates who received the most electoral votes. Each state delegation votes en bloc, with each state having a single vote. A candidate is required to receive an absolute majority of state delegation votes (currently 26 votes) in order for that candidate to become the president-elect. The District of Columbia, which is not a state, does not receive a vote. The House continues balloting until it elects a president.
Historically, a delegation that did not give a majority of its vote to any one candidate was marked as "divided," and thus did not award its vote to any candidate. However, the requirement for a majority vote of the state's delegation is not present in the Constitution, and future contingent elections could require only a plurality, rather than a majority, of the state delegation to vote for a candidate. Previous contingent elections were held in a closed session, and the votes of each member of the House was not revealed. The Constitution does not require a closed session for contingent elections, and future contingent elections could be held in an open session with public voting.
If no candidate for vice president receives an absolute majority of electoral votes, then the Senate must go into session to elect a vice president. The Senate is limited to choosing from only the two candidates who received the most electoral votes. Unlike in the House, senators cast votes individually in this election. Additionally, the 12th Amendment states that a "majority of the whole number" of senators (currently 51 of 100) is necessary for election. The language requiring an absolute majority of Senate votes may preclude the sitting vice president from breaking any tie which might occur, although some academics and journalists have speculated to the contrary.
The Democratic-Republican Party intended for Thomas Jefferson (left) to be elected president and Aaron Burr (right) to be vice president, but they tied in the Electoral College and many Federalists in the House of Representatives voted for Burr in the contingent election due to their opposition to Jefferson.
The 1800 presidential election pitted Democratic-Republican ticket Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr against Federalist Party ticket John Adams and Charles Cotesworth Pinckney. Under the Constitution as it then stood, before the passage of the 12th Amendment each elector cast two votes, and the candidate with a majority of the votes was elected president, with the vice-presidency going to the runner-up. Each party formed a plan in which one of their respective electors would vote for a third candidate or abstain so that their preferred presidential candidate (Adams for the Federalists and Jefferson for the Democratic-Republicans) would win one more vote than the party's other nominee. Democratic-Republicans failed to execute the plan however, thus Jefferson and Burr tied at 73 electoral votes each; Adams came in third with 63 votes.
The Constitution also mandated that, "if there be more than one who have such Majority, and have an equal Number of Votes, then the House of Representatives shall immediately chuse [sic] by Ballot one of them for President." Therefore, Jefferson and Burr were admitted as candidates in the House election. Although the congressional election of 1800 turned over majority control of the House of Representatives to the Democratic-Republicans, the presidential election would be decided by the outgoing House, which had a Federalist majority. Even so, under the Constitution, voting to elect the President in contingent elections is done by state delegation, with each state having a single vote. As a result, neither party had a majority because some states had split delegations. Given this deadlock, Democratic-Republican representatives, who generally favored Jefferson for president, contemplated two distasteful possible outcomes: either the Federalists manage to engineer a victory for Burr, or they refuse to break the deadlock leaving a Federalist—Secretary of State John Marshall—as Acting President come Inauguration Day.
Over the course of seven days, from February 11 to 17, the House cast a total of 35 ballots, with Jefferson receiving the votes of eight state delegations each time, one short of the necessary majority of nine. On February 17, on the 36th ballot, Jefferson was elected. Several Federalist representatives cast blank ballots, resulting in Maryland and Vermont's votes changing from no selection to Jefferson, giving him the votes of 10 states and the presidency. This situation was the impetus for the passage of the Twelfth Amendment, which provided for separate elections for president and vice president in the Electoral College.
Four candidates received votes in the Electoral College in 1824, with no candidate attaining a majority. The House of Representative elected John Quincy Adams (left) even though Andrew Jackson (right) had won a plurality of both the electoral and popular votes in the original election.
The 1824 presidential election came at the end of the Era of Good Feelings in American politics, and featured four candidates who would win electoral votes: Andrew Jackson, John Quincy Adams, William H. Crawford, and Henry Clay. Andrew Jackson received more electoral and popular votes than any other candidate, but not the majority of 131 electoral votes needed to win the election, leading to a contingent election in the House of Representatives. (Vice presidential candidate John C. Calhoun easily defeated his rivals, as the support of both the Adams and Jackson camps gave him an unassailable lead over the other candidates.)
Following the provisions of the 12th Amendment, only the top three candidates in the electoral vote were admitted as candidates in the House: Jackson, Adams, and Crawford. Clay, who happened to be Speaker of the House at the time, was left out. Clay threw his support to Adams, who was elected President on February 9, 1825, on the first ballot, with 13 states, followed by Jackson with 7, and Crawford with 4.
Adams' victory shocked Jackson, who, as the winner of a plurality of both the popular and electoral votes, expected to be elected president. By appointing Clay his Secretary of State, President Adams essentially declared him heir to the Presidency, as Adams and his three predecessors had all served as Secretary of State. Jackson and his followers accused Adams and Clay of striking a "corrupt bargain". The Jacksonians would campaign on this claim for the next four years, ultimately attaining Jackson's victory in the Adams-Jackson rematch in 1828.
While Democratic presidential candidate Martin Van Buren won a majority of the Electoral College, Virginia's electors refused to vote for his running mate Richard Mentor Johnson (left), forcing a contingent election in the Senate against Whig candidate Francis Granger (right).
In the 1836 presidential election, Democratic presidential candidate Martin Van Buren and his running mate Richard Mentor Johnson won the popular vote in enough states to receive a majority of the Electoral College. However, Virginia's 23 electors all became faithless electors and refused to vote for Johnson, leaving him one vote short of the 148-vote majority required to elect him. Under the 12th Amendment, a contingent election in the Senate had to decide between Johnson and Whig candidate Francis Granger. Johnson was elected easily in a single ballot by 33 to 16.
Some members of Congress have proposed constitutional amendments to alter the contingent election process. Some proposals call for the abolition of the Electoral College and the contingent election process in favor of the direct election of the president, with the candidate who receives a plurality or majority of the popular vote becoming president. Other proposals have sought to alter the contingent election process for president so that each member of the House, rather than each state delegation, holds one vote.
The 1796 United States elections elected the members of the 5th United States Congress. The election took place during the beginning stages of the First Party System, as the Federalist Party and the Democratic-Republican Party clashed over the states' rights, the financial policies of Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton, and the recently ratified Jay Treaty. The Federalists maintained control of the Senate, and won control of the House and the presidency.
In the first contested Presidential election and the first presidential election in which parties played a major role, Federalist Vice President John Adams narrowly defeated Democratic-Republican former Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson. Adams won New England while Jefferson won the South, leaving the mid-Atlantic states to decide the election. As the election took place prior to the ratification of the 12th Amendment, Jefferson, who finished with the second most electoral votes, succeeded Adams as vice president. Federalist former Governor Thomas Pinckney of South Carolina finished with the third most electoral votes, while Democratic-Republican Senator Aaron Burr of New York finished in fourth place. This election marked the only time in American history that members of two different political parties were elected as president and vice president. Adams's election made him the first member of a political party to be elected president, as George Washington had remained unaffiliated with any political faction or party throughout his presidency.In the House, Federalists won moderate gains, taking majority control of the chamber.In the Senate, Federalists picked up one seat, maintaining a commanding majority in the chamber.1796 United States presidential election
The United States presidential election of 1796 was the third quadrennial presidential election. It was held from Friday, November 4 to Wednesday, December 7, 1796. It was the first contested American presidential election, the first presidential election in which political parties played a dominant role, and the only presidential election in which a president and vice president were elected from opposing tickets. Incumbent Vice President John Adams of the Federalist Party defeated former Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson of the Democratic-Republican Party.
With incumbent President George Washington having refused a third term in office, the 1796 election became the first U.S. presidential election in which political parties competed for the presidency. The Federalists coalesced behind Adams and the Democratic-Republicans supported Jefferson, but each party ran multiple candidates. Under the electoral rules in place prior to the 1804 ratification of the Twelfth Amendment, the members of the Electoral College each cast two votes, with no distinction made between electoral votes for president and electoral votes for vice president. In order to be elected president, the winning candidate had to win the votes of a majority of electors; should no individual win a majority, the House of Representatives would hold a contingent election.
The campaign was an acrimonious one, with Federalists attempting to identify the Democratic-Republicans with the violence of the French Revolution and the Democratic-Republicans accusing the Federalists of favoring monarchism and aristocracy. Republicans sought to associate Adams with the policies developed by fellow Federalist Alexander Hamilton during the Washington administration, which they declaimed were too much in favor of Great Britain and a centralized national government. In foreign policy, Republicans denounced the Federalists over the Jay Treaty, which had established a temporary peace with Great Britain. Federalists attacked Jefferson's moral character, alleging he was an atheist and that he had been a coward during the American Revolutionary War. Adams supporters also accused Jefferson of being too pro-France; the accusation was underscored when the French ambassador embarrassed the Republicans by publicly backing Jefferson and attacking the Federalists right before the election. Despite the vituperation between their respective camps, neither Adams nor Jefferson actively campaigned for the presidency.Adams was elected president with 71 electoral votes, one more than was needed for a majority. Adams won by sweeping the electoral votes of New England and winning votes from several other swing states, especially the states of the Mid-Atlantic region. Jefferson received 68 electoral votes and was elected vice president. Former Governor Thomas Pinckney of South Carolina, a Federalist, finished with 59 electoral votes, while Senator Aaron Burr, a Democratic-Republican from New York, won 30 electoral votes. The remaining 48 electoral votes were dispersed among nine other candidates. Reflecting the evolving nature of both parties, several electors cast one vote for a Federalist candidate and one vote for a Democratic-Republican candidate. The election marked the formation of the First Party System, and established a rivalry between Federalist New England and Democratic-Republican South, with the middle states holding the balance of power (New York and Maryland were the crucial swing states, and between them only voted for a loser once between 1789 and 1820).1800 United States elections
The 1800 United States elections elected the members of the 7th United States Congress. The election took place during the First Party System, and is generally considered the first realigning election in American history. Perhaps most significantly, this election was the first peaceful transfer of power between parties in American history. The Democratic-Republican Party won control of the Presidency and both houses of Congress for the first time. Conversely, the Federalist Party would never again control the Presidency or either house of Congress. Ohio was admitted as a state during the 7th Congress.
In the Presidential election, Democratic-Republican Vice President Thomas Jefferson became the first Democratic-Republican President, narrowly defeating incumbent Federalist President John Adams. Jefferson again won the South and Adams again won New England, but Jefferson won by adding New York and Maryland. Jefferson tied his own running mate, former Senator Aaron Burr of New York, in electoral votes, necessitating a contingent election in the House that Jefferson won. Burr, as the runner-up, was elected vice president. The contingent election led to the passage of the 12th Amendment, which altered the electoral college so that electors in all future elections cast an electoral vote for president and a separate electoral vote for vice president.
In the House, Democratic-Republicans won major gains, taking control of the chamber.In the Senate, Democratic-Republicans picked up several seats, taking control of the chamber for the first time in the party's history.1800 United States presidential election
The United States presidential election of 1800 was the fourth United States presidential election. It was held from Friday, October 31 to Wednesday, December 3, 1800. In what is sometimes referred to as the "Revolution of 1800", Vice President Thomas Jefferson of the Democratic-Republican Party defeated incumbent President John Adams of the Federalist Party. The election was a realigning election that ushered in a generation of Democratic-Republican rule.
Adams had narrowly defeated Jefferson in the 1796 election. Under the rules of the electoral system that were in place prior to the 1804 ratification of the 12th Amendment, each member of the Electoral College cast two votes, with no distinction made between electoral votes for president and electoral votes for vice president. As Jefferson received the second-most votes in 1796, he was elected vice president. In 1800, unlike in 1796, both parties formally nominated tickets. The Democratic-Republicans nominated a ticket consisting of Jefferson and Aaron Burr, while the Federalists nominated a ticket consisting of Adams and Charles C. Pinckney. Each party formed a plan in which one of their respective electors would vote for a third candidate or abstain so that their preferred presidential candidate (Adams for the Federalists and Jefferson for the Democratic-Republicans) would win one more vote than the party's other nominee.The chief political issues revolved around the fallout from the French Revolution and the Quasi-War. The Federalists favored a strong central government and close relations with Great Britain. The Democratic-Republicans favored decentralization to the state governments, and the party attacked the taxes imposed by the Federalists. The Democratic-Republicans also denounced the Alien and Sedition Acts, which the Federalists had passed to make it harder for immigrants to become citizens and to restrict statements critical of the federal government. While the Democratic-Republicans were well organized at the state and local levels, the Federalists were disorganized and suffered a bitter split between their two major leaders, President Adams and Alexander Hamilton. According to historian John Ferling, the jockeying for electoral votes, regional divisions, and the propaganda smear campaigns created by both parties made the election recognizably modern.At the end of a long and bitter campaign, Jefferson and Burr each won 73 electoral votes, Adams won 65 electoral votes, and Pinckney won 64 electoral votes. The Federalists swept New England, the Democratic-Republicans dominated the South, and the parties split the Mid-Atlantic states of New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. The Democratic-Republicans' failure to execute their plan to award Jefferson one more vote than Burr resulted in a tie, which necessitated a contingent election in the House of Representatives. Under the terms laid out in the Constitution, the outgoing House of Representatives chose between Jefferson and Burr. Each state delegation cast one vote, and a victory in the contingent election required one candidate to win a majority of the state delegations. Neither Burr nor Jefferson were able to win on the first 35 ballots of the contingent election, as most Federalist Congressmen backed Burr and all Democratic-Republican Congressmen backed Jefferson. Hamilton personally favored Jefferson over Burr, and he convinced several Federalists to switch their support to Jefferson, giving Jefferson a victory on the 36th ballot of the contingent election. The result of this election was affected by the three-fifths clause of the United States Constitution; historians such as Garry Wills have noted that had slaves not been counted for the purposes of congressional apportionment, Adams would have won the electoral vote.1824 United States presidential election
The 1824 United States presidential election was the tenth quadrennial presidential election, held from October 26 to December 2, 1824. No candidate won a majority of the electoral vote, becoming the only election to require a contingent election in the House of Representatives under the provisions of the 12th Amendment. On February 9, 1825, the House chose John Quincy Adams as president. It was the first election in which the winner did not achieve at least a plurality of the national popular vote.
The Democratic-Republican Party had won six consecutive presidential elections and was the only national political party. The Congressional caucus nominated Treasury Secretary William H. Crawford for president. Senator Andrew Jackson, House Speaker Henry Clay, and Secretary of State Adams all joined Crawford in seeking the presidency, highlighting factionalism within the party and an end to the Era of Good Feelings. A fifth candidate, John C. Calhoun, withdrew, instead choosing to run for vice president.
Adams won New England, Jackson and Adams split the mid-Atlantic states, Jackson and Clay split the Western states, and Jackson and Crawford split the Southern states. Jackson finished with a plurality of the electoral and popular vote, while the other three candidates each finished with a significant share of the votes. Calhoun became the de facto running mate of Adams and as such was elected with a comfortable majority of the vice presidential vote in the Electoral College. Clay, who was not a top three finisher, was constitutionally eliminated. Influential within the contingent election, Clay threw his support behind Adams, who shared many of his positions on the major issues. With Clay's backing, Adams won the contingent election on the first ballot.1828 United States presidential election
The 1828 United States presidential election was the 11th quadrennial presidential election, held from October 31 to December 2, 1828. It featured a re-match of the 1824 election, as President John Quincy Adams of the National Republican Party faced Andrew Jackson of the Democratic Party. Both parties were new organizations, and this was the first Presidential election their nominees contested. Unlike in 1824, Jackson defeated Adams, marking the start of Democratic dominance in Federal politics.
In 1824, with four major candidates running for President as members of only one national party, Jackson had won a plurality both of the electoral vote and of the popular vote from among the 18 states whose voters chose Presidential electors. However, with the open support of House Speaker Henry Clay, Adams won the subsequent contingent election in the House of Representatives under the Twelfth Amendment. Many Jackson supporters perceived that his loss, though Constitutional, was unfair and contrary to the popular will, accusing Adams and Clay of having reached a "corrupt bargain" in which Clay helped Adams win the contingent election in return for the position of Secretary of State. Intensifying political rivalry between supporters and opponents of Jackson fractured the once-dominant Democratic-Republican Party. Jackson and allies such as Martin Van Buren and Vice President John C. Calhoun laid the foundations of the Democratic Party, while supporters of Adams and other Jackson opponents rallied around the President, calling themselves National Republicans.
By popular pressure, states had recently expanded voting rights to nearly all white men in nearly all elections. For example, in 1824, state legislatures chose Presidential electors in six states, but by 1828, four had transitioned to voter choice. Also, while nationally organized parties had fielded rival candidates before, 1828 was the first election in which broadly qualified voters effectively chose the President from between nominees of two national parties, whose candidates or electors consistently appeared on all ballots. With greater perceived and real impact, voter participation grew, with 9.5% of Americans casting a vote for President, compared with 3.4% in 1824.Jackson was aided by the passage of the Tariff of 1828, which raised tariffs. Denounced by opponents as the "Tariff of Abominations," the unpopular tariff and the greater charisma and popular appeal of Jackson helped him dominate the South and West. Adams swept New England but won only three other small states. Jackson became the first President whose home state was neither Massachusetts nor Virginia, while Adams was the second to lose re-election, following his father, John Adams. The election marked the rise of Jacksonian Democracy and the transition from the First Party System to the Second Party System. Historians debate the significance of the election, with many arguing that it marked the beginning of modern American politics by removing key barriers to voter participation and establishing a stable two-party system.1836 United States elections
The 1836 United States elections elected the members of the 25th United States Congress. The election saw the emergence of the Whig Party, which succeeded the National Republican Party in the Second Party System as the primary opposition to the Democratic Party. The Whigs chose their name in symbolic defiance to the leader of the Democratic Party, "King" Andrew Jackson, and supported a national bank and the American System. Despite the emergence of the Whigs as a durable political party, Democrats retained the Presidency and a majority in both houses of Congress.
In the Presidential election, the Whigs ran multiple candidates designed to deny the Democratic candidate a majority of the electoral vote, and carried a scattering of states in the South, West, and Northeast. However, Democratic Vice President Martin Van Buren still took a majority of the popular and electoral vote, defeating Whig candidates William Henry Harrison of Ohio, Hugh Lawson White of Tennessee, Daniel Webster of Massachusetts, and Willie Person Mangum of North Carolina. Virginia's electors refused to vote for Richard Mentor Johnson, Van Buren's running mate, leaving Johnson short of a majority of electoral votes for vice president. The Senate elected Johnson in a contingent election, the only time the Senate has ever chosen the vice president. Van Buren was the last sitting vice president to win election as president until George H.W. Bush's election in 1988.
In the House, Whigs won moderate gains, but Democrats retained a solid majority in the chamber.In the Senate, Democrats picked up a large number of seats, boosting their majority.1836 United States presidential election
The United States presidential election of 1836 was the 13th quadrennial presidential election, held from November 3 to December 7, 1836. In the third consecutive election victory for the Democratic Party, incumbent Vice President Martin Van Buren defeated four candidates fielded by the nascent Whig Party.
Under the popular leadership of Andrew Jackson, the Democrats had established a stable party. The 1835 Democratic National Convention chose a ticket of Van Buren, Jackson's handpicked successor, and Congressman Richard Mentor Johnson. By contrast, the Whigs had only recently emerged and were primarily united by opposition to Jackson. Not yet sufficiently organized to agree on a single candidate, Whigs hoped to compel a contingent election in the House of Representatives by denying the Democrats an electoral majority, similarly to the election of 1824. Thus, the Whigs ran two main tickets. Most Northern and border state Whigs supported the ticket led by former Senator William Henry Harrison of Ohio, while most Southern Whigs supported the ticket led by Senator Hugh Lawson White of Tennessee. Two other Whigs, Daniel Webster and Willie Person Mangum, carried Massachusetts and South Carolina respectively on single-state tickets.
The Whig strategy failed, as Van Buren won both an electoral majority and a popular majority, though in South Carolina no popular vote was held and the state legislature chose Whig electors. The Whig strategy nearly succeeded in forcing the contingent election, as in 1835, a severe state-level Democratic Party split in Pennsylvania had propelled the Whig-aligned Anti-Masonic Party to statewide power. Party alignments by state in the House of Representatives suggest that a contingent election would have had an uncertain outcome, with Van Buren favored but no candidate enjoying a clear path to victory. However, Van Buren overcame the split, narrowly carrying Pennsylvania and winning the Presidency.
Van Buren was the third incumbent vice president to win election as president, which would happen next only in 1988. Harrison finished second in both the popular and electoral vote. His strong performance helped him win the Whig nomination in the 1840 presidential election.
As Virginia's electors voted for Van Buren but refused to vote for his running mate Johnson, Johnson lacked an electoral majority. The Twelfth Amendment contingent election procedure mandated that the United States Senate choose the vice president. The Senate chose Johnson over Francis Granger on the first ballot.
The election of 1836 was crucial in developing the Second Party System and a stable two-party system more generally. By the end of the election, nearly every independent faction had been absorbed by either the Democrats or the Whigs.2020 United States elections
The 2020 United States elections will be held on Tuesday, November 3, 2020. All 435 seats in the United States House of Representatives, 34 of the 100 seats in the United States Senate, and the office of President of the United States will be contested. Thirteen state and territorial governorships, as well as numerous other state and local elections, will also be contested.
Both parties will attempt to win unified control of Congress and the presidency in the 2020 elections. Incumbent Republican President Donald Trump will seek re-election in the 2020 presidential election. Each major party will choose a presidential nominee through a series of primaries and caucuses, culminating in a national convention held in mid-2020. Barring vacancies and party-switching, Republicans will enter the 2020 elections with a majority of at least 53 seats in the Senate, while Democrats will enter the election with a majority of at least 235 seats in the House.
Eleven of the 50 states, as well as two of the five territories, will hold gubernatorial elections. The vast majority of states will hold state legislative elections. The outcome of these elections will have a major impact on the redistricting that will take place following the 2020 United States Census.Constitutional Union Party (United States)
The Constitutional Union Party was a United States third party active during the 1860 elections. It consisted of conservative former Whigs, largely from the Southern United States, who wanted to avoid secession over the slavery issue and refused to join either the Republican Party or the Democratic Party. The Constitutional Union Party campaigned on a simple platform "to recognize no political principle other than the Constitution of the country, the Union of the states, and the Enforcement of the Laws".
The Whig Party had collapsed in the 1850s due to a series of sectional crises over slavery. Though some former Whigs joined the Democratic Party or the new, anti-slavery Republican Party, others joined the nativist American Party. The American Party collapsed following the 1856 elections, and in the lead-up to the 1860 elections John J. Crittenden and other former Whigs founded the Constitutional Union Party. The 1860 Constitutional Union Convention met in May 1860, nominating John Bell of Tennessee for president and Edward Everett of Massachusetts for vice president. Party leaders hoped to force a contingent election in the House of Representatives by denying any one candidate a majority in the Electoral College.
The 1860 election essentially consisted of two campaigns, as Republican nominee Abraham Lincoln competed with Northern Democratic candidate Stephen A. Douglas in the North, and Bell competed with Southern Democratic candidate John C. Breckinridge in the South. Ultimately, Lincoln won the election by winning nearly every Northern electoral vote. Bell took 12.6% of the nationwide popular vote, carried three states in the Upper South, and finished with the second highest vote total in each remaining slave state that held a popular vote. After the election, Crittenden and other Constitutional Unionists unsuccessfully sought to prevent a civil war with the Crittenden Compromise and the Peace Conference of 1861. Bell declared his support for the Confederacy following the Battle of Fort Sumter, but many other Constitutional Unionists remained loyal to the Union throughout the American Civil War.Francis Granger
Francis Granger (December 1, 1792 – August 31, 1868) was a Representative from New York and United States Postmaster General. He was a Whig Party vice presidential nominee in 1836 and is the only person to ever lose a contingent election in the U.S. Senate for Vice President.George Wallace
George Corley Wallace Jr. (August 25, 1919 – September 13, 1998) was the 45th Governor of Alabama, a position he occupied for four terms, during which he promoted "low-grade industrial development, low taxes, and trade schools". He sought the United States presidency as a Democrat three times, and once as an American Independent Party candidate, unsuccessfully each time. He is best remembered for his staunch segregationist and populist views. Wallace was known as "the most dangerous racist in America" and notoriously opposed desegregation and supported the policies of "Jim Crow" during the Civil Rights Movement, declaring in his 1963 inaugural address that he stood for "segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever".Born in Clio, Alabama, Wallace attended the University of Alabama School of Law and served in United States Army Air Corps during World War II. After the war, he won election to the Alabama House of Representatives and served as a state judge. Wallace first sought the Democratic nomination in the 1958 Alabama gubernatorial election. Initially a moderate on racial issues, Wallace adopted a hard-line segregationist stance after losing the 1958 nomination. Wallace ran for governor again in 1962, and won the race. Seeking to stop the racial integration of the University of Alabama, Wallace earned national notoriety by standing in front of the entrance of the University of Alabama, blocking the path of black students. Wallace left office after one term due to term limits, but his wife, Lurleen Wallace, won the next election and succeeded him, though he was the de facto governor.Wallace challenged sitting President Lyndon B. Johnson in the 1964 Democratic presidential primaries, but Johnson prevailed in the race. In the 1968 presidential election, Wallace ran a third party campaign in an attempt to force a contingent election in the United States House of Representatives, thereby enhancing the political clout of segregationist Southern leaders. Wallace won five Southern states but failed to force a contingent election; As of 2019 he remains the most recent third-party candidate to receive pledged electoral college votes from any state. Wallace won election to another term as Governor of Alabama in 1970 and ran in the 1972 Democratic presidential primaries, once again campaigning for segregation. His campaign effectively ended when he was shot in Maryland by Arthur Bremer, and Wallace remained paralyzed below the waist for the rest of his life. Bremer was sentenced to 63 years in prison for the shooting, which was later reduced to 53 years following an appeal; he served 35 years of the reduced sentence and was paroled in 2007.
Wallace won re-election as governor in 1974, and he once again unsuccessfully sought the Democratic presidential nomination in the 1976 Democratic presidential primaries. In the late 1970s, Wallace announced that he became a born-again Christian and moderated his views on race, renouncing his past support for segregation. Wallace left office in 1979 but won election to a fourth and final term as governor in 1982. Wallace served 16 years and one day as Governor of Alabama, the third longest gubernatorial tenure in post-Constitutional U.S. history. Describing his impact on national politics despite his lack of success in presidential races, two biographers termed Wallace "the most influential loser" of 20th-century American politics.John Quincy Adams
John Quincy Adams ( (listen); July 11, 1767 – February 23, 1848) was an American statesman, diplomat, lawyer, and diarist who served as the sixth president of the United States from 1825 to 1829. He previously served as the eighth United States Secretary of State from 1817 to 1825. During his long diplomatic and political career, Adams also served as an ambassador, and represented Massachusetts as a United States Senator and as a member of the United States House of Representatives. He was the eldest son of John Adams, who served as the second US president from 1797 to 1801, and First Lady Abigail Adams. Initially a Federalist like his father, he won election to the presidency as a member of the Democratic-Republican Party, and in the mid-1830s became affiliated with the Whig Party.
Born in Braintree, Massachusetts, Adams spent much of his youth in Europe, where his father served as a diplomat. After returning to the United States, Adams established a successful legal practice in Boston. In 1794, President George Washington appointed Adams as the U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands, and Adams would serve in high-ranking diplomatic posts until 1801, when Thomas Jefferson took office as president. Federalist leaders in Massachusetts arranged for Adams's election to the United States Senate in 1802, but Adams broke with the Federalist Party over foreign policy and was denied re-election. In 1809, Adams was appointed as the U.S. ambassador to Russia by President James Madison, a member of the Democratic-Republican Party. Adams held diplomatic posts for the duration of Madison's presidency, and he served as part of the American delegation that negotiated an end to the War of 1812. In 1817, newly-elected President James Monroe selected Adams as his Secretary of State. In that role, Adams negotiated the Adams–Onís Treaty, which provided for the American acquisition of Florida. He also helped formulate the Monroe Doctrine, which became a key tenet of U.S. foreign policy.
The 1824 presidential election was contested by Adams, Andrew Jackson, William H. Crawford, and Henry Clay, all of whom were members of the Democratic-Republican Party. As no candidate won a majority of the electoral vote, the House of Representatives held a contingent election to determine the president, and Adams won that contingent election with the support of Clay. As president, Adams called for an ambitious agenda that included federally-funded infrastructure projects, the establishment of a national university, and engagement with the countries of Latin America, but many of his initiatives were defeated in Congress. During Adams's presidency, the Democratic-Republican Party polarized into two major camps: one group, known as the National Republican Party, supported President Adams, while the other group, known as the Democratic Party, was led by Andrew Jackson. The Democrats proved to be more effective political organizers than Adams and his National Republican supporters, and Jackson decisively defeated Adams in the 1828 presidential election.
Rather than retiring from public service, Adams won election to the House of Representatives, where he would serve from 1831 to his death in 1848. He joined the Anti-Masonic Party in the early 1830s before becoming a member of the Whig Party, which united those opposed to President Jackson. During his time in Congress, Adams became increasingly critical of slavery and of the Southern leaders whom he believed controlled the Democratic Party. He was particularly opposed to the annexation of Texas and the Mexican–American War, which he saw as a war to extend slavery. He also led the repeal of the "gag rule," which had prevented the House of Representatives from debating petitions to abolish slavery. Historians generally concur that Adams was one of the greatest diplomats and secretaries of state in American history, but they tend to rank him as an average president.List of unsuccessful major party candidates for President of the United States
The United States has had a two-party system for much of its history, and the major parties of the two-party system have dominated presidential elections for most of U.S. history. Since the ratification of the United States Constitution in 1788, there have been 51 unsuccessful major party candidates for President of the United States. Since 1796, eight third party or independent candidates have won at least ten percent of the popular or electoral vote, but all failed to win the presidency.
Since the ratification of the Twelfth Amendment in 1804, the winner of any given presidential election is the candidate that receives the majority of the electoral vote. If no individual wins a majority of the electoral vote, then the United States House of Representatives holds a contingent election to determine the election winner; contingent elections have decided the winners of two presidential elections. Since 1824, the national popular vote has been recorded, but the national popular vote does not determine the winner of the presidential election. There have been five presidential elections in which the winner did not win a majority or a plurality of the popular vote.
The two current major parties are the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. At various points prior to the American Civil War, the Federalist Party, the Democratic-Republican Party, the National Republican Party, and the Whig Party were major parties. These six parties have nominated candidates in the vast majority of presidential elections, but six presidential elections deviate from the normal pattern of two major party candidates. There were no major party candidates for president in the presidential election of 1789 and the presidential election of 1792, both of which were won by George Washington. In the 1812 presidential election, DeWitt Clinton served as the de facto Federalist nominee even though he was a member of the Democratic-Republican Party; Clinton was defeated by Democratic-Republican President James Madison. In the presidential election of 1820, incumbent President James Monroe of the Democratic-Republican Party effectively ran unopposed. In the 1824 presidential election, four Democratic-Republicans competed in multiple states in the general election as the party was unable to agree on a single nominee. Similarly, in the presidential election of 1836, the Whig Party did not unify around a single candidate and two different Whig candidates competed in multiple states in the general election.Several former, incumbent, or future presidents have unsuccessfully sought the presidency. Several individuals have unsuccessfully sought the presidency as the candidate of a major party multiple times; only Henry Clay and William Jennings Bryan have done so thrice. Seven different third parties have nominated a candidate who won at least ten percent of the electoral vote or at least ten percent of the popular vote in a single election, and who was not nominated by a major party in that election. Two of those candidates, Theodore Roosevelt and John C. Breckinridge, finished with the second-highest share of the electoral vote. Since 1796, just one independent candidate, Ross Perot, has accrued more than ten percent of the popular or electoral vote. One third party candidate, Horace Greeley of the Liberal Republican Party, was nominated by a major party only after being nominated by a third party.Presidency of John Quincy Adams
The presidency of John Quincy Adams began on March 4, 1825, when John Quincy Adams was inaugurated as President of the United States, and ended on March 4, 1829. Adams, the sixth United States president, took office following the 1824 presidential election, in which he and three other Democratic-Republicans—Henry Clay, William H. Crawford, and Andrew Jackson—sought the presidency. There was no preliminary party primary six months before the general election, as became the custom. No candidate won a majority of Electoral College votes, and so the United States House of Representatives chose the president in a contingent election. With the help of Clay, Adams was elected by the House, and Clay became Adams's Secretary of State.
Upon taking office, Adams articulated an ambitious domestic agenda. He envisioned a national marketplace in which North and South, town and country, were tied together by trade and exchange. A supporter of Henry Clay's proposed American System, he proposed major investments in internal improvements (involving the construction of roads and canals), and the creation of educational institutions such as a national university, among other initiatives, to bring this vision to life. Due to meager support from congressional leaders, however, his agenda was largely blocked by Congress. His support of the "Tariff of Abominations," a protective tariff approved by Congress in 1828, hurt his popularity among voters.
The foreign affairs initiatives of the Adams administration fared only slightly better. It did conclude reciprocal trading rights treaties with several nations, arranged to extend indefinitely a commercial convention with Britain and resolved outstanding questions regarding British seizure of property during the War of 1812. The administration was, however, prevented from resolving several ongoing trade issues, which only served to heighten tensions with Britain and negatively impacted U.S. trade. When Adams wished to send a delegation to the 1826 Congress of Panama, a gathering of the new republics of Latin America, his request for funding was blocked by Congress.
The contentious nature of the 1824 election brought about the demise of the Democratic-Republican Party and the emergence of a new era in American politics. Characterizing Adams's victory as the result of a "corrupt bargain" between Adams and Clay, Jackson and his supporters, including Martin Van Buren and Vice President John C. Calhoun, spent the ensuing three years constructing the organization that would become the modern Democratic Party. The followers of Adams organized themselves more loosely as the National Republican Party, but were unable to match the efforts of the Democrats under Jackson, who won the 1828 election in a landslide.Twelfth Amendment to the United States Constitution
The Twelfth Amendment (Amendment XII) to the United States Constitution provides the procedure for electing the President and Vice President. It replaced the procedure provided in Article II, Section 1, Clause 3, by which the Electoral College originally functioned. The amendment was proposed by the Congress on December 9, 1803, and was ratified by the requisite three-fourths of state legislatures on June 15, 1804. The new rules took effect for the 1804 presidential election and have governed all subsequent presidential elections.
Under the original rules of the Constitution, each member of the Electoral College cast two electoral votes, with no distinction made between electoral votes for president and electoral votes for vice president. The presidential candidate receiving the greatest number of votes—provided that number equaled a majority of the electors—was elected president, while the presidential candidate receiving the second-most votes was elected vice president. In cases where no individual won a vote from a majority of the electors, as well in cases where multiple individuals won a majority but tied each other for the most votes, the House of Representatives would hold a contingent election to select the president. In cases where multiple candidates tied for the second-most votes, the Senate would hold a contingent election to select the vice president. The first four presidential elections were conducted under these rules.
The experiences of the 1796 and 1800 presidential elections spurred legislators to amend the presidential election process, requiring each member of the Electoral College to cast one electoral vote for president and one electoral vote for vice president. Under the new rules, a contingent election is still held by the House of Representatives if no candidate wins a presidential electoral vote from a majority of the electors, but there is no longer any possibility of multiple candidates winning presidential electoral votes from a majority of electors. The Twelfth Amendment also contained other provisions, lowering the number of candidates eligible to be selected by the House in a presidential contingent election from five to three, establishing that the Senate would hold a contingent election for vice president if no candidate won a majority of the vice presidential electoral vote, and providing that no individual constitutionally ineligible to the office of president would be eligible to serve as vice president.Twentieth Amendment to the United States Constitution
The Twentieth Amendment (Amendment XX) to the United States Constitution moved the beginning and ending of the terms of the president and vice president from March 4 to January 20, and of members of Congress from March 4 to January 3. It also has provisions that determine what is to be done when there is no president-elect. The Twentieth Amendment was adopted on January 23, 1933.The amendment was designed largely to limit the "lame duck" period, the period served by Congress and the president after an election but before the end of the terms of those who were not re-elected. Indirectly, the amendment requires the incoming Congress, rather than the outgoing Congress, to hold a contingent election in the event that no individual wins a majority of the electoral vote in a presidential election. The amendment also establishes procedures in the case that a president-elect dies, is not chosen, or otherwise fails to qualify prior to the start of a new presidential term.United States presidential elections in which the winner lost the popular vote
There have been five United States presidential elections in which the winner lost the popular vote including the 1824 election, which was the first U.S. presidential election where the popular vote was recorded. Losing the popular vote means securing less of the national popular vote than the person who received either a majority or a plurality of the vote.In the U.S. presidential election system, instead of the nationwide popular vote determining the outcome of the election, the President of the United States is determined by votes cast by electors of the Electoral College. Alternatively, if no candidate receives an absolute majority of electoral votes, the election is determined by the House of Representatives. These procedures are governed by the Twelfth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
When individuals cast ballots in the general election, they are choosing electors and telling them whom they should vote for in the Electoral College. The "national popular vote" is the sum of all the votes cast in the general election, nationwide. The presidential elections of 1876, 1888, 2000, and 2016 produced an Electoral College winner who did not receive the most votes in the general election. In 1824, there were six states in which electors were legislatively appointed, rather than popularly elected, so the true national popular vote is uncertain. When no candidate received a majority of electoral votes in 1824, the election was decided by the House of Representatives. For these two reasons, the 1824 election is distinguishable from the latter four elections, which were held after all states had instituted the popular selection of electors, and in each of which a single candidate won an outright majority of electoral votes, thus becoming president without a contingent election in the House of Representatives. The true national popular vote total was also uncertain in the 1960 election, and the plurality winner depends on how votes for Alabama electors are allocated.William H. Crawford
William Harris Crawford (February 24, 1772 – September 15, 1834) was an American politician and judge during the early 19th century. He served as United States Secretary of War and United States Secretary of the Treasury before running for president in the 1824 election.
Born in Virginia, Crawford moved to Georgia at a young age. After studying law, Crawford won election to the Georgia House of Representatives in 1803. He aligned with the Democratic-Republican Party and U.S. Senator James Jackson. In 1807, the Georgia legislature elected Crawford to the United States Senate. After the death of Vice President George Clinton, Crawford's position as president pro tempore of the Senate made him first in the presidential line of succession from April 1812 to March 1813. In 1813, President James Madison appointed Crawford as the U.S. minister to France, and Crawford held that post for the remainder of the War of 1812. After the war, Madison appointed him to the position of Secretary of War. In October 1816, Madison chose Crawford for the position of Secretary of the Treasury, and Crawford would remain in that office for the remainder of Madison's presidency and for the duration of James Monroe's presidency.
Crawford suffered a severe stroke in 1823, but nonetheless sought to succeed Monroe in the 1824 election. The Democratic-Republican Party splintered into factions as several others also sought the presidency. No candidate won a majority of the electoral vote, so the United States House of Representatives chose the president in a contingent election. Under the terms of the Constitution, the House selected from the three candidates who received the most electoral votes, leaving Andrew Jackson, John Quincy Adams, and Crawford in the running. The House selected Adams, who asked Crawford to remain at Treasury. Refusing Adams's offer, Crawford accepted appointment to the Georgia state superior court. He considered running in the 1832 presidential election, either for the presidency or the vice presidency, but ultimately chose not to run.
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