We propose that the United States hold direct elections for Vice President. The current joint-ticket or running mate process no longer serves the best interest of our current governing needs. Direct election of the Vice President would provide more agency to all American citizens and allow for greater accountability of the roles of the Executive Branch to direct vote by all citizens. Our modern system of voting for national executive branch officers (President and Vice President) on a joint ticket has been the de facto reality since the Civil War and Lincoln’s assassination. However, neither the Constitution nor any law mandates the institution of a joint ticket on a ballot. Quite the opposite, in fact.
Virtually all the functions of the Vice President have become necessarily vague under the current joint ticket regime so that the true importance of the position itself is neigh impossible to define. As the choice running mate of the President, the modern Vice President’s sole expectation is to speak with the same voice as the President. This makes the position an understudy or spokesperson at best.
While the role of Vice President contemporarily has come to encompass a multitude of variations on activity or responsibility, the assumption of all but one of them are exclusively at the whim of the President. We even only give the briefest of nods to the sole constitutional requirement of the Vice President: presiding over the Senate. For most, that has been reduced to breaking a tied vote in the Senate.
Considering that today’s Senate effectively operates regularly under the exclusive direction of the President Pro Tempore. While that position is held by an elected official, only Senators themselves determine who amongst them holds the position of Pro Tempore. In effect, this has disenfranchised Americans from any real input, much less control, over the operations of Congress. At best, Americans each have only an effective 0.56% say in Congressional leadership and operation. We say at best, as that is an average scenario assuming all congressional members have equal opportunity in leadership positions in their respective houses. The reality of the situation is far more unequal for the vast majority of voters who live in states without pre-existing long-tenured Senators.
By presiding over the Senate, the Vice President should have significant capacity to direct the nature and tenor of Senate proceedings including votes, floor time, and other procedural matters. A direct election of the Vice President during the 4-year electoral cycle would give the American voters the opportunity to more directly influence the course of Congress via the operation of the Senate.
Vice Presidential campaigns would be centered around how to manage the Senate, as opposed to just backing up the President on matters of state ceremonial responsibilities. Such campaigning would necessitate a much more robust and healthier debate as to how to effectively operate the final legislation-providing body of the government. This provides the voters the ability to have direct and regular course-corrections on how Congress should be run.
The separation of the voting of the President and Vice President also defers many of the expectations of the office of the President to not just weigh in on, but directly manage, domestic legislative affairs. By reasserting the primacy of the Vice President as the President of the Senate, it removes the specter of the President’s responsibility to manage legislation and Congress; releasing the office of President to focus on matters of state and the role of Commander in Chief.
Ultimately, direct election of the Vice President restores the original Constitutional role of the office, ensures a greater check on runaway power within the Executive Branch, and most of all provides the American people increased agency and authority over the way that the elected branches of government operate on their behalf. Bringing America one step closer to achieving the promise of an honest democracy.