Two Centuries Ago, Another Electoral Mess

The framers of the Constitution were sure they had covered all the bases. The election of 1800 proved them wrong.

Thomas Jefferson (search) was the Democratic-Republican Party's nominee for president in that year, and Aaron Burr (search) the party's vice-presidential choice.

But because their electors wrote both their names on their ballots, they ended up in a tie under the original method of awarding the presidency to the man getting the most votes and the vice presidency to the runner-up.

Both Jefferson and Burr each got 73 votes. The Federalist candidate, John Adams (search), received 65.

The Founding Fathers (search), it turns out, did not anticipate the formation of political parties, and did not create a way to elect the president and vice president independently.

It took the 16 states in the House 36 ballots over seven days in 1801 to finally elect Jefferson president and Burr his vice president.

To avoid a repeat, the 12th Amendment was ratified in 1804, specifying that electors would vote separately for president and vice president.