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Wednesday, November 23, 2022

The VP and the Counting of Electoral Votes

At AEI, Joseph Bessette and Gary Schmitt find no support for the view that the Vice President has unilateral constitutional authority to resolve electoral vote disputes.
Our analysis proceeds in four stages. First, we show that the framers viewed the Vice Presidency as a rather insignificant office and, thus, one unlikely to be given the constitutional power to decide presidential elections. Second, we show that the relevant constitutional language strongly suggests that Congress possesses the authority to legislate procedures to resolve electoral disputes. Third, we show that in the congressional debates of 1789 to 1805, every major alternative for locating the power to resolve electoral disputes – that it resides in Congress, in the state legislatures, or among the electors themselves when they meet in their states – was advanced except for one: that it resides in the office of the Vice Presidency. This silence, in our view, speaks volumes. Finally, we maintain that the principles and structure of the American constitutional order are inimical to allowing the discretion and will of a single individual (especially one who often has a personal stake in the outcome) to decide presidential elections. In brief, the history of the office, the text of the Constitution, founding-era debates, and the underlying logic of the Constitution do not support the view that the Vice President possesses unilateral constitutional authority to resolve electoral vote disputes.