© 2010 jbjd

Words matter.  Interpretation of the words found in a legal treatise cannot be dependent only on ‘plain meaning’ but must be considered in context.  Especially where these words appear in the context of the U.S. Constitution.

For example, the definition of the word “qualified” in the 20th Amendment (the Norris Lame Duck Amendment) ≠ the definition of the word “eligible” in Article II, section 1.

Here is the 20th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.  (All emphasis is added by jbjd.)

(Keep in mind, at the time the 20th Amendment was ratified in 1933, Electors cast their votes for President and Vice President separately notwithstanding after the 12th Amendment, the President and Vice President ran and campaigned for office, as a team. Id.)

20th Amendment

Section 1.The terms of the President and Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January, and the terms of Senators and Representatives at noon on the 3d day of January, of the years in which such terms would have ended if this article had not been ratified; and the terms of their successors shall then begin.

Section 2.

The Congress shall assemble at least once in every year, and such meeting shall begin at noon on the 3d day of January, unless they shall by law appoint a different day.

Section 3.

If, at the time fixed for the beginning of the term of the President, the President elect shall have died, the Vice President elect shall become President. If a President shall not have been chosen before the time fixed for the beginning of his term, or if the President elect shall have failed to qualify, then the Vice President elect shall act as President until a President shall have qualified; and the Congress may by law provide for the case wherein neither a President elect nor a Vice President elect shall have qualified, declaring who shall then act as President, or the manner in which one who is to act shall be selected, and such person shall act accordingly until a President or Vice President shall have qualified.

Section 4.

The Congress may by law provide for the case of the death of any of the persons from whom the House of Representatives may choose a President whenever the right of choice shall have devolved upon them, and for the case of the death of any of the persons from whom the Senate may choose a Vice President whenever the right of choice shall have devolved upon them.

Section 5.

Sections 1 and 2 shall take effect on the 15th day of October following the ratification of this article.

Section 6.

This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several states within seven years from the date of its submission.

Without getting into a whole legal dissertation, this amendment can be summed up as fixing new dates for the terms of office of the President and Vice President; and members of Congress so as to minimize the length of time these public officials not re-elected to office – lame ducks – would sit before being replaced by their successors.

Because its history points to the time between the Elector voting and the Congressional and Presidential terms, which once were several months apart, when, lacking a sufficient vote by the Electors for either President or Vice President, the vote was thrown to this lame duck Congress.  The word “qualified” relative to the President in this case only refers to having obtained the requisite number of Elector votes to win office, or, lacking those votes, having been ‘elected’ by the votes of Congress.  If no such President had qualified, the Vice President who had qualified by receiving the requisite Elector votes or, lacking that, sufficient votes in Congress would act as President until all voting was completed for that office.  Otherwise, this Amendment makes absolutely no sense.

Remember, no public actor previous to the passage of this Amendment was required through either the Constitution or the U.S. Code, to vet either the President or Vice-President as to Constitutional eligibility; and no law required Electors (or Congress) to elect only a President or Vice President eligible under Article II, section 1 of the Constitution, anyway.  Now, ask yourself:  what sense does it presently make to assume the pre-existence of such mandatory-election-of-eligible-candidates laws, just so as to usurp the word “qualified” to suit an otherwise perverted interpretation of the law?

In sum, the definition of the word “qualified” in the 20th Amendment (the Norris Lame Duck Amendment) ≠ the definition of the word “eligible” in Article II, section 1.  Never.  Ever.  This means, a person can be qualified to be President under Amendment XX and still be ineligible under Article II for the job.  And all the convoluted legal tomes (or foot stomping or arm twisting) in the world cannot change this unalterable truth.

For a full explanation of the purpose of this Lame Duck Amendment, see http://www.law.cornell.edu/anncon/html/amdt20_user.html#amdt20_hd4.

For more interesting reading on the 20th Amendment, see “Investigating the “Norris Thesis”: Presidential Influence, Party Power, and Lame-Duck Sessions of Congress, 1877-1933” (arguing that no evidence supports Sen. Norris’ fears that a lame duck Congress would wreak havoc on the democratic process); and “Is the lame duck Congress constitutional,” at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/11/11/AR2010111106075.html (suggesting some legislative tweaking to restrict the lame duck Congress might be in order).


  1. It doesn’t make sense. Section 3 states: “… or if the President elect shall have failed to qualify, then the Vice President elect shall act as President …” (emphasis nine).

    If “qualified” refers only to the number of electoral votes, and if a failure to qualify signifies a lack of sufficient electoral votes, then how can the president be referred to as the “President-elect”? He can only be the President-elect if he has already received the requisite number of electoral votes, for that is the only way a president is is constitutionally elected.

    This view is also supported by the previous phrase “If a President shall not have been chosen before the time fixed for the beginning of his term”. A candidate can only be a president “chosen” if he receives the requisite number of electoral votes. That’s when he becomes a “President elect”.

    Of course, that by itself does not necessarily prove that “qualified” means the same thing as “eligible”, but the text definitely does not lend itself to the interpretation you offer. The question remains, then, what “qualified” could possibly mean if it doesn’t mean “eligible.”

    Alex Wallenwein: Try reading “the President-elect” as “a President-elect.” (Perhaps the formality of the article “the” was more suitable than “a” for text written at that time.) Again, “qualified” means, surviving the Constitutionally prescribed steps of achieving the requisite votes by the Electors in the first instance or, if that fails, by Congress, in time to be sworn in on January 20. ADMINISTRATOR

    • azgo says:


      Qualified v. Eligible

      This is interesting.

      The 20th Amendment, as ratified in 1933, says;

      “and the Congress may by law provide for the case wherein neither a President elect nor a Vice President elect shall have qualified, declaring who shall then act as President, or the manner in which one who is to act shall be selected, and such person shall act accordingly until a President or Vice President shall have qualified.”

      Actually there is a law which includes a similar phrase, “neither a President elect nor a Vice President elect shall have qualified” as stated in the 20th Amendment, above, but the law says, “the failure of both the President-elect and the Vice-President-elect to qualify,” but the law requires an “acting” President as officers are required to be “eligible to the office of President”.

      First, I must refer to a CRS report to Congress which provides a discussion of presidential succession. (Reading the whole report is very informative.)

      “Finally, this [The Succession Act of 1792] and both later succession acts required that designees meet the constitutional requirements of age,
      residence, and natural born citizenship.”

      The later succession acts are “The Succession Act of 1886” and “The Presidential Succession Act of 1947”.

      “The Presidential Succession Act of 1947” is codified with amendments in U.S. Code, Title 3, “§ 19. Vacancy in offices of both President and Vice President; officers eligible to act” and states;

      “(e) Subsections (a), (b), and (d) of this section shall apply only to such officers as are eligible to the office of President under the Constitution.”

      This means “officers” as presidential successors must be eligible as in Art. II, Sec. 3 of the Constitution, therefore, the officers “shall be eligible to the Office of President”.

      And we know, “No person …shall be eligible to the Office of President” in regard to the constitutional requirements of age,
      residence, and natural born citizenship.

      Therefore, since presidential successors are required to be “eligible” going back to “The Succession Act of 1792” and before the 20th Amendment (1933) and a person for President is required and “shall be ‘eligible’ to the Office of President” under Art. II, Sec. 3, can’t we assume and/or acknowledge that Congress over the years has interpreted or thereof, the word “qualified” to include being “eligible” as a prerequisite to the Office of President?

      Doesn’t “to the Office of President” mean before actually holding Office?

      If so, shouldn’t a President-Elect and for that matter, any candidate for President be “qualified” including being “eligible”, so that Congress may count the Electoral votes and approve the election, unless an elected candidate ‘slips’ through and this allowing for an objection by members of Congress?

      azgo: “Qualified” does not equal “eligible,” no matter how much you and so many others struggle to make it appear so. I will restate what I wrote in the article. The purpose of the 20th Amendment, which fixed start and end dates for Presidential and Congressional terms, was to eliminate the possibility that a Congress not re-elected, that is, rejected by the people, would be able to choose the people’s next President or Vice President, should the votes of the Electors fail to elect people into either position, or both positions. http://www.law.cornell.edu/anncon/html/amdt20_user.html#amdt20_hd41. (Ever since the 12th Amendment, Electors vote for President and, separately, for Vice President. Before that, Electors voted only for President; whoever came in second, became Vice President.) Before either the person chosen as the President-elect or the Vice President-elect can “qualify” to fill that office, s/he must 1) receive the requisite votes of the Electors; and 2) have that vote certified by the Congress. Neither person would “qualify” who failed, for example, to receive the necessary Elector votes. Section 3 of the 20th Amendment gives Congress the authority to legislate what will happen when either the President-elect or the Vice President-elect, or both, fail(s) to qualify, that is, reach the requisite number of votes from the Electors.

      Any of the Amendments regarding Presidential Succession, and their corresponding Congressional legislation potentially address a situation in which a person not elected by the Electors of the several states may fill the office of President or Vice President. Under those circumstances, that is, preparing for the situation where it might be called upon to fulfill the function traditionally held by state Electors, Congress wrote laws to ensure that they only ratify a person who is Constitutionally eligible for the job. But no such laws exist for Electors of each state; and no such requirement exists in the Constitution that would mandate Electors to elect only an eligible President or Vice President.

      In sum, anticipating situations in which it might find itself having to supplant the role of state Electors, Congress set a higher standard for selecting and/or ratifying the selection of the President and Vice President than the legal standard set for those Electors.

  2. markcon says:

    I didnt like your shallow hit piece on west- but wont argue-just dont know why u needed to comment on one lowly seat–

    still a fan-but was absent for awhile-

    no need post this,

    did he contact u?
    just curious why you had Mr. Williams on the show when someone plagiarized jbjd blog and gave it Anonymously to Mr. Williams who wrote a very narrow view of the issue and got the fraud part wrong. On the right hand side you have jbjd latest blog listed on your web page on sept 8. (7days ago) Mr. Williams column was sept.10. Would it be a good idea to have someone who has been raising this issue,studying and actually helping people do something for the last 9 months on your show? A lawyer
    but hey your show- I understand- jump on the bandwagon. to bad williams just limped along.who cares about accurate work.
    September 15, 2009 8:38 PM
    Arlen Williams said…

    Do you know how I may communicate with jbjd?
    September 23, 2009 11:32 PM

    markcon: Nice to hear from you. Thank you for giving me the option – “no need to post this” – but, as I said in the email, I want to share your fine comment with other “jbjd” readers.

    That article on then Congressional wannabe Allen West bothered many readers; only, unlike you, they did not withhold their disdain but let loose with a tirade of unprintable vindictives. (At least, on this blog these were unpublishable; on the blog at which I cross-posted temporarily, they flew fast and furious, unimpeded by the “Flag” button which, I was told after the fact, does not work.) Fortunately for me, those commenters, like you, did not point to specific errors of fact contained in my work but only made unambiguously clear they disliked the fact, I had produced it.

    markcon, I have neither the expectation nor the desire that readers who appreciate my work, will also agree with everything I say. More sycophants in this political arena, we do not need.

    But I part ways with that part of your objection to my focus on Mr. West which is predicated on the fact, he is only seeking to occupy “one lowly seat.” It’s not Mr. West at whom I was aiming my words; I certainly was not aiming at the seat in Congress. It was the millions (?) who deify one man and simultaneously demonize the other, for exhibiting the same traits. Indeed, my focus was not intended to show the hypocrisy of these contemporaneous yet inapposite viewpoints; but to cause readers to think about the real reasons underlying their support or disdain for either man. And, by extension to any man or woman seeking office. And let me assure you, my blog is read by people whose opinions reach to the outermost boundaries of both the ‘left’ and the ‘right.’ Birther and non-Birther alike.

    As for your valiant defense of that work involving the written Certifications of Obama’s Nomination, ‘good at you.’ Especially, thank you for citing among your other objections to the theft of this work, that the point of the endeavor was thereafter misstated and misapplied. (So many people miss that salient point!) As you well understand, this means, the numerous people who ‘tune into’ Mr. Williams and believed (and continue to believe) his tall tales, in this case, about the process of Certification, are not grasping the ins and outs of how our government works, and remain less knowledgeable than those who used their superior knowledge to steal the power of these voters in the 2008 Presidential (Electors) election cycle. Tragically, by extension, this all but guarantees, this will happen again in 2012.

    No, none of the people you mentioned has contacted me. (I am curious; will this fact influence your ‘support’ of these so-called ‘media’ outlets?) ADMINISTRATOR

  3. […] Electors based on the fact, they elected an ineligible President.  Please see expanded analysis in QUALIFIED ≠ ELIGIBLE.) Of course, if EC voters receive information before December 15 that Obama is ineligible for the […]

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