Article 2, Section 1, Clauses 2 and 3

Document 6

[Selection of Electors, 1796--1832], McPherson v. Blacker

146 U.S. 1 1892

Fifteen States participated in the second presidential election, in nine of which electors were chosen by the legislatures. Maryland, (Laws Md. 1790, c. 16, [2 Kelty]; Laws 1791, c. 62, [2 Kelty],) New Hampshire, (Laws N. H. 1792, 398, 401,) and Pennsylvania (Laws Penn. 1792, p. 240,) elected their electors on a general ticket, and Virginia by districts. Laws Va. 1792, p. 87, [13 Hening, 536]. In Massachusetts the general court by resolution of June 30, 1792, divided the State into four districts, in each of two of which five electors were elected, and in each of the other two three electors. Mass. Resolves, June, 1792, p. 25. Under the apportionment of April 13, 1792, North Carolina was entitled to ten members of the House of Representatives. The legislature was not in session and did not meet until November 15, while under the act of Congress of March 1, 1792, (1 Stat. 239, c. 8,) the electors were to assemble on December 5. The legislature passed an act dividing the State into four districts, and directing the members of the legislature residing in each district to meet on the 25th of November and choose three electors. 2 Iredell N. Car. Laws, 1715 to 1800, c. 15 of 1792. At the same session an act was passed dividing the State into districts for the election of electors in 1796, and every four years thereafter. Id. c. 16.

Sixteen States took part in the third presidential election, Tennessee having been admitted June 1, 1796. In nine States the electors were appointed by the legislatures, and in Pennsylvania and New Hampshire by popular vote for a general ticket. Virginia, North Carolina, and Maryland elected by districts. The Maryland law of December 24, 1795, was entitled "An act to alter the mode of electing electors," and provided for dividing the State into ten districts, each of which districts should "elect and appoint one person, being a resident of the said district, as an elector." Laws Md. 1795, c. 73, [2 Kelty]. Massachusetts adhered to the district system, electing one elector in each Congressional district by a majority vote. It was provided that if no one had a majority, the legislature should make the appointment on joint ballot, and the legislature also appointed two electors at large in the same manner. Mass. Resolves, June, 1796, p. 12. In Tennessee an act was passed August 8, 1796, which provided for the election of three electors, "one in the district of Washington, one in the district of Hamilton, and one in the district of Mero," and, "that the said electors may be elected with as little trouble to the citizens as possible," certain persons of the counties of Washington, Sullivan, Green, and Hawkins were named in the act and appointed electors to elect an elector for the district of Washington; certain other persons of the counties of Knox, Jefferson, Sevier, and Blount were by name appointed to elect an elector for the district of Hamilton; and certain others of the counties of Davidson, Sumner, and Tennessee to elect an elector for the district of Mero. Laws Tenn. 1794, 1803, p. 109; Acts 2d Sess. 1st Gen. Assembly Tenn. c. 4. Electors were chosen by the persons thus designated.

In the fourth presidential election, Virginia, under the advice of Mr. Jefferson, adopted the general ticket, at least "until some uniform mode of choosing a President and Vice-President of the United States shall be prescribed by an amendment to the Constitution." Laws Va. 1799, 1800, p. 3. Massachusetts passed a resolution providing that the electors of that State should be appointed by joint ballot of the senate and house. Mass. Resolves, June, 1800, p. 13. Pennsylvania appointed by the legislature, and upon a contest between the senate and house, the latter was forced to yield to the senate in agreeing to an arrangement which resulted in dividing the vote of the electors. 26 Niles' Reg. 17. Six States, however, chose electors by popular vote, Rhode Island supplying the place of Pennsylvania, which had theretofore followed that course. Tennessee, by act of October 26, 1799, designated persons by name to choose its three electors as under the act of 1796. Laws Tenn. 1794--1803, p. 211; Acts 2d Sess. 2d Gen. Ass. Tenn. c. 46.

Without pursuing the subject further, it is sufficient to observe that, while most of the States adopted the general ticket system, the district method obtained in Kentucky until 1824; in Tennessee and Maryland until 1832; in Indiana in 1824 and 1828; in Illinois in 1820 and 1824; and in Maine in 1820, 1824 and 1828. Massachusetts used the general ticket system, in 1804, (Mass. Resolves, June, 1804, p. 19,) chose electors by joint ballot of the legislature in 1808 and in 1816, (Mass. Resolves, 1808, pp. 205, 207, 209; 1816, p. 233;) used the district system again in 1812 and in 1820, (Mass. Resolves, 1812, p. 94; 1820, p. 245;) and returned to the general ticket system in 1824, (Mass. Resolves, 1824, p. 40.) In New York the electors were elected in 1828 by districts, the district electors choosing the electors at large. N.Y. Rev. Stat. 1827, Part I, Title vi, c. 6. The appointment of electors by the legislature, instead of by popular vote, was made use of by North Carolina, Vermont and New Jersey in 1812.

In 1824 the electors were chosen by popular vote, by districts, and by general ticket, in all the States excepting Delaware, Georgia, Louisiana, New York, South Carolina, and Vermont, where they were still chosen by the legislature. After 1832 electors were chosen by general ticket in all the States excepting South Carolina, where the legislature chose them up to and including 1860. Journals 1860, Senate pp. 12, 13; House, 11, 15, 17. And this was the mode adopted by Florida in 1868, (Laws 1868, p. 166,) and by Colorado in 1876, as prescribed by § 19 of the schedule to the constitution of the State, which was admitted into the Union August 1, 1876. Gen. Laws Colorado, 1877, pp. 79, 990.

The Founders' Constitution
Volume 3, Article 2, Section 1, Clauses 2 and 3, Document 6
The University of Chicago Press

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