Frequently asked questions

No one has ever run an unaffiliated campaign for vice president of the United States. Here are some key points to help you understand our approach.

The Constitutionality of Running for Vice President

Can someone actually run for vice president?

Yes. The president and vice president are the only two nationally-elected offices defined in the Constitution. And they are technically elected separately. Common practice by states, though, is to put both on the same item on the ballot.

Does the Constitution need to change for this to work?

No. Article 2 and the 12th Amendment of the Constitution say the VP and president are elected independently, in the same manner.

Do the president and vice president have to be from the same party?

No. Nothing in the Constitution requires that both candidates be from the same party. It’s only custom, not law, that has led to both regularly being on the same “ticket”.

Can an independent vice president be elected outside the major parties?

Yes. There’s no constitutional definition or federal law that require a vice president be part of a political party, or even have a running mate.

Reasons for an Independently-Elected Vice President

What’s the benefit of electing our vice president separately from our president?

Currently, the candidates for president pick their running mates as they wish. An independently-elected vice president would give American voters a new level of direct control over who serves in the White House.

Further, a separately-elected vice president could provide a moderating influence on the partisanship of the president. This seems increasingly important as hyper-partisanship continues to increase.

Why should American voters have a larger influence on who becomes vice president?

Because over the past 40 years, the power of the vice president has grown considerably. They have a substantial influence on foreign policy and domestic affairs in the White House. And in the Senate, the number of tie-breaking votes they have cast continues to rise; Mike Pence has already cast 13 tiebreakers in first two years of his term.

The American people deserve to have greater control over such an important position.

Why don’t we currently elect our vice president separately from our president?

Mostly because of the power of the political parties. Party bylaws and state regulations have merged the two offices onto a single ballot item (a single “ticket”) since 1804.

The Future of the Vice Presidency

How large could the vice president’s role be in the future?

The vice president has a unique position that straddles both the executive and legislative branches of government. They could become a more significant and independent role in the White House and the Senate. And if they are elected separately, they could be an independent or unaffiliated voice to check the partisanship of the president.

What determines the vice president’s role?

Three things determine the VP’s role and duties: the Constitution, federal statutes (laws passed by Congress), and custom. All three of these things can be changed, though obviously on different time scales and with different levels of effort. Thus it is up to the American people to decide the role of the vice president in American politics.

How might the voting process look for the vice presidency in the future?

In the future we could see citizens running for vice president separately from presidential candidates. And state ballots would list candidates for president and VP separately. (Currently the norm is that voters select both on one ballot item.)

How Would a Campaign for Vice President Work

How would someone run for vice president?

There are two routes. The first is to get on the ballot (“ballot access”) in enough states to win 270 Electoral College votes. The second is to garner enough voter support that a major party candidate would be compelled to pick them as a running mate.

How would a ballot work with an unaffiliated VP candidate?

The candidate would need to get added to the ballot state by state (called “ballot access”). State rules vary, but generally a candidate would need a petition signed by some number or percentage of voters. The numbers range from under 500 to over 100,000.

Why would a presidential candidate pick an unaffiliated VP candidate as a running mate?

Presidential candidates need to win a majority of Electoral College votes (currently 270). So they need to appeal to a large number of voters in may states, especially states with a large number of Electoral College votes. If an unaffiliated VP candidate would help the presidential candidate win those votes, they could be compelled to pick them as a running mate.

Don’t presidential candidates already pick running mates who will help them win?

Yes. But it’s generally been the presidential candidate making the decision. It’s conceivable that a popular VP candidate could actually pick which presidential candidate they would want to join forces with.

Why would someone run as an unaffiliated vice president?

The two-party system is very entrenched. It’s extremely difficult for an independent candidate win the Presidency. Running as vice president is an innovative way to bring issues and ideas to the White House and national politics.

What a Vice President Does

What powers does the Constitution give the vice president?

The main executive duty specified by the Constitution is to become president if the president can no longer serve. A second Executive duty is to determine, along with the president’s Cabinet, whether the president has become unfit to serve. That recommendation is then sent to Congress, which ultimately votes on whether to remove the president from office.

In the legislative branch, the VP acts as the president of the Senate, a largely honorary role that the Senate itself gets to define. They cast tie-breaking votes in the Senate. And they count Electoral College votes for presidential & vice presidential elections (though this is just a formality now).

Can the president fire the vice president?

No. The vice president is elected by the people and doesn’t report to the president. However, the president does have significant influence on the VP’s role in the Executive Branch.

Doesn’t the president decide what the vice president focuses on?

Yes and no. To some extent, the president does choose how the two work together. And if the vice president is willing, then they act as the president’s advisor and right-hand person. However, the vice president also has roles and duties independent from the president, especially those in the Senate.

History of the Vice Presidency

How has the election process for the vice president changed over time?

At first, the Constitution specified that Electors cast two votes among all presidential candidates. The winner became president; the runner-up became vice president — forcing competitors to become colleagues. For several reasons, this system was not perfect.

In 1804, the 12th Amendment specified Electors would cast distinct votes for the two positions. So in principle, the vice president should be on a separate ballot item from the president.

Does the Constitution specify that political parties choose their candidates?

No. The Constitution doesn’t even mention political parties. But since 1804, political parties have chosen their candidates, and the vice president has run with the president on a “party ticket”. In 1940, Franklin Roosevelt took the decision from the party leadership and made it his own. Since then, presidential candidates have been basically free to pick their own running mate.

This shows the power of the political parties, especially given that Amendment 12 of the Constitution says that votes for president and vice president should be on “distinct ballots” and tallied on “distinct lists.”

Has the Constitution changed the vice Presidency in any other way?

In 1967, the 25th Amendment clarified that if the president can’t serve, the vice president officially becomes the president (rather than just assuming the president’s duties).

How often has the vice president replaced the president?

Nine vice presidents have unexpectedly become president. That’s roughly a 1-in-5 chance.
The most-recent was Gerald Ford, who took over when Richard Nixon resigned in 1974.

How often has the vice president broken ties in the Senate?

In the past 40 years, the vice president has cast roughly five tie-breaking votes (about two per term). However, Vice President Mike Pence has already cast 13 tie-breaking votes in the first half of his term, a number not matched since 1873. With the increased partisanship of the Senate, tie-breaking could become a more significant role for the vice president.

How have the vice president’s executive branch duties changed over time?

Vice presidents had virtually no role in the White House for almost two centuries (aside from replacing presidents, which is immensely significant and not that rare). In 1976, Walter Mondale convinced Jimmy Carter that the executive duties of the VP should be greatly expanded as a “general advisor” to the president and a key member of the White House staff. Dick Cheney was perhaps the most influential VP; the amount of power he wielded “behind the scenes” was quite controversial. Since then, Joe Biden and Mike Pence have played a support role more similar to Mondale.

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