20th Amendment Simplified
The United States Constitution is the oldest still in active use, written in 1787 and ratified in 1788.
The 20th Amendment to the Constitution, ratified on January 23, 1933, shortened the timeframe between a president and vice president being elected and taking office.
It also altered the date the United States Congress was required to meet, detailing the aspects surrounding these issues in six sections.
20th Amendment Overview
In the original United States Constitution, the president, vice president, and Congress did not start their new term until March 4, about four months after election day.
This delay caused a significant void of leadership in the executive and legislative branches of the federal government.
While the previous president, vice president, and Congress were theoretically still in charge, they would be severely handicapped in addressing a crisis. This handicap was simply because they didn’t have much time to address problems before their respective terms ran out.
Constitutional Amendment Abolished 4-Month Delay
Congress faced an additional problem in the original United States Constitution, as they were directed to meet at least once a year starting in December.
This stipulation resulted in a mandated “lame duck” session of Congress following a November election. The old Congress was required to meet but couldn’t adequately address the country’s needs because their term was about to expire.
The Twentieth Amendment sought to alleviate these problems by altering the timeframes of the executive and legislative branches ahead of inauguration day.
Section 1 of the 20th Amendment
Section 1 of the 21st Amendment moved the date for the inauguration day of a new president and vice president taking office from March 4 to January 20 and the new Congress from March 4 to January 3.
This alteration significantly decreased the length of constrained leadership in the executive and legislative branches.
Section 2 of the 20th Amendment
Section 2 stipulated that the United States Congress must meet once a year, as stated in the original Constitution.
However, it changed the time of the first meeting from December to January 3, eliminating the constitutionally mandated “lame duck” congressional session.
Section 3 of the 20th Amendment
Section 3 describes the line of succession of the presidency. It states that if the president-elect dies before taking office on January 20, the vice president becomes president.
Additionally, suppose a president is not chosen before the January 20 deadline or the president-elect is deemed unfit to serve. In that case, the vice president will become acting president until a new president can be selected.
For example, say both a president-elect and vice president-elect are considered unfit to serve their terms.
In such a scenario, Congress is given the authority to choose a new acting president until a president and/or vice president can be selected.
Section 4 of the 20th Amendment
Section 4 authorized Congress to enact procedures for selecting the president and vice president in case of the president’s or vice president’s death. Or when Congress is given the authority to choose these offices if no candidate gets a majority of electoral votes.
In these situations, the House of Representatives is responsible for choosing a president for the White House, and the Senate is responsible for choosing a vice president.
Section 5 of the 20th Amendment
Section 5 stated that sections 1 and 2 of the 20th Amendment would take effect on October 15 following the ratification of the constitutional amendment by state legislatures.
Section 6 of the 20th Amendment
Section 6 specified that the Twentieth Amendment would only become law if it was ratified by 3/4’s of state legislatures within seven years of its submission.
The twentieth amendment to the Constitution was proposed to the legislatures of the several states by the Seventy-Second Congress, on the 2d day of March, 1932, and was declared, in a proclamation by the Secretary of State, dated on the 6th day of February, 1933, to have been ratified by the legislatures of 36 of the 48 States. The dates of ratification were: Virginia, March 4, 1932; New York, March 11, 1932; Mississippi, March 16, 1932; Arkansas, March 17, 1932; Kentucky, March 17, 1932; New Jersey, March 21, 1932; South Carolina, March 25, 1932; Michigan, March 31, 1932; Maine, April 1, 1932; Rhode Island, April 14, 1932; Illinois, April 21, 1932; Louisiana, June 22, 1932; West Virginia, July 30, 1932; Pennsylvania, August 11, 1932; Indiana, August 15, 1932; Texas, September 7, 1932; Alabama, September 13, 1932; California, January 4, 1933; North Carolina, January 5, 1933; North Dakota, January 9, 1933; Minnesota, January 12, 1933; Arizona, January 13, 1933; Montana, January 13, 1933; Nebraska, January 13, 1933; Oklahoma, January 13, 1933; Kansas, January 16, 1933; Oregon, January 16, 1933; Delaware, January 19, 1933; Washington, January 19, 1933; Wyoming, January 19, 1933; Iowa, January 20, 1933; South Dakota, January 20, 1933; Tennessee, January 20, 1933; Idaho, January 21, 1933; New Mexico, January 21, 1933; Georgia, January 23, 1933; Missouri, January 23, 1933; Ohio, January 23, 1933; Utah, January 23, 1933.
Ratification was completed on January 23, 1933.
The amendment was subsequently ratified by Massachusetts on January 24, 1933; Wisconsin, January 24, 1933; Colorado, January 24, 1933; Nevada, January 26, 1933; Connecticut, January 27, 1933; New Hampshire, January 31, 1933; Vermont, February 2, 1933; Maryland, March 24, 1933; Florida, April 26, 1933.