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Home > History > Amendment 20 - United States Constitution Interactive

Amendment 20 - United States Constitution Interactive

This page provides the text and interpreted text of the 20th Amendment of the United States Constitution. It is part of our interactive Constitution.

John Bingham - Representative from Ohio and Primary AutLame Duck Amendment

Lame Duck Amendment

What does it Say?

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.

What does it Mean?

The 20th Amendment, also known as the Lame Duck Amendment, moved the date in which a newly elected president and member of Congress took office closer to election time. A lame duck is an official who continues to hold office after not being re-elected. Before the 20th Amendment, a newly elected congress person did not take office for four months after being elected.

Section 2 of the 17th Amendment allows state governments to make a temporary appointment for Senator if that position becomes vacant.

 

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