Posted in American History, history, Politics

The Constitution: Article Two (Part One)

So as Article One created the Legislative Branch, Article Two creates the executive branch.  Notably this branch contains the President and Vice President, but it also contains the cabinet and their departments as well as a few other smaller government offices.

Section One

This section sets up the Presidency.  Who it is, how long he/she is in there, and how they are elected.

The President of the United States serves 4 year terms.  It in the initial constitution this was not limited as far as how many terms one could serve.  Just that one had to be reelected every four years to keep the job.  George Washington set a precedent for two terms, which most Presidents kept to, although a few tried (and failed) to win a third term.  The only exception was Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who inspired the 22nd Amendment which limits the president to 2 elected terms.  They can serve longer only if they are finishing the term of a previous president.  The longest a President can serve is roughly 10 years.

To be President, a person must be at least 35 years old, a natural citizen of the United States.  The exception was made for those who were born elsewhere and moved to the US prior to the adoption of the Constitution. In that particular case, it required a 14 year citizenship of the US.  This clause no longer effects Presidents, as no one alive today was born prior to the adoption of the Constitution.

He/She is elected by electoral college.  The electoral college is a often debated element of American democracy in the last 227 years. I wrote about the electoral college before, but to recap, its an election by representation.

Each state gets the number of electoral votes equal to the number of representatives plus the two senators.  For example, Pennsylvania has 20 electoral votes because it has 18 representatives and 2 senators. California has 55 electors, because it has 53 representatives and 2 senators.  None of these electors can be holders of public office (so while it equals congress presence, no congressman can actually be an elector.)

So the Electoral college is made up of 538 votes currently. In the original plan, each elector would fill out a ballet with two names.  The man with the most votes would be President.  The runner up would be his vice President. This is how John Adams became the first Vice president two times in a row.  George Washington got the majority of the votes  I believe he had the first and only unanimous election in 1789 with 69 votes.  John Adams received 34 votes.

Basically, the popular vote is voting on electors. Most states vote with all votes going to whoever won the popular vote in their state.  A few states will split the amount of votes, Maine and Nebraska.  They both allocate two electoral votes to the winner of the popular vote and then an electoral vote for whoever wins the congressional district the vote represents. However, most states have an all or nothing vote record and thus the electoral vote doesn’t always match up exactly to the popular vote, although it usually does not change the winner.(There are exceptions of course, which I go into more detail on my post on the electoral college, linked above)

(Also found in link at bottom of the page)

Now of course, we only vote for President and he chooses his own Vice President.  The Constitution was amended by the 12th Amendment .  Also Amended was the procedure of what to do if a President was incapable of holding office by means of disability (such as , death, resignation, or impeachment.)  The 25th Amendment took the vagueness of the Constitution and made it it bit more clear.

Here to show it in action, The West Wing:

In the fictional scenario above, the President had no Vice President (as Vice President Hoynes had resigned). The Temporary president is the Speaker of the House, Glen Walken.

The section ends with a few words about compensation (No pay raises during the term they are elected to), and the words of the oath of office:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and fend the Constitution of the United States.

Further Reading / Sources

Amendment 22 (Constitution Center)

The Election of 1789 (Mount

The Electoral College Official Page (

Maine & Nebraka Votes (

The West Wing:  Season 4, episode 23 “Twenty-Five”

Quickstudy: The US Constitution



A thirty-something Graphic Designer and writer who likes to blog about books, movies and History.

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