20th Amendment

Presidential Term and Succession, Assembly of Congress

Passed by Congress March 2, 1932. Ratified January 23, 1933. The 20th Amendment changed a portion of Article I, Section 4, and a portion of the 12th Amendment

Section 1

The terms of the President and the 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 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.

Read Interpretations of the 20th Amendment

More about 20th Amendment

The Drafting Table

Explore key historical documents that inspired the Framers of the Constitution and each amendment during the drafting process, the early drafts and major proposals behind each provision, and discover how the drafters deliberated, agreed and disagreed, on the path to compromise and the final text.

In the Classroom

Teach the Constitution in your classroom with nonpartisan resources including videos, lesson plans, podcasts, and more. Check out our classroom resources organized by each article or amendment, and by key constitutional questions.

Media Library: 20th Amendment

Live At America's Town Hall Podcast

America’s Contentious Presidential Elections: A History

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Town Hall Video

America’s Contentious Presidential Elections: A History

Hear a conversation exploring key controversial elections throughout American history and what we can learn from them.

Oct 19

Blog Post

The Constitution and contested presidential elections

The Electoral College is a uniquely American institution and no stranger to controversy. But legally contested presidential…

Oct 5

Educational Video

Scholar Exchange: Learning about the Electoral College (High School Session)

In this session, students will explore the Electoral College’s controversial origins at the Constitutional Convention, the…

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