What occurs if a candidate for president dies?


WASHINGTON (AP) — It is a month earlier than Election Day and President Donald Trump is within the hospital, contaminated with a virus that has killed greater than 209,000 People. What occurs within the election — already properly underway — ought to his situation take a flip for the more serious?

If the president is unable to serve, by way of sickness or dying, the twenty fifth Modification makes clear the powers of the presidency switch to Vice President Mike Pence till the president regains the flexibility to carry out his duties.

However what occurs if a candidate for president dies earlier than Election Day? Or proper after? What occurs if the successful candidate dies earlier than Inauguration Day?

It is by no means occurred in a rustic with an extended transition between Election Day firstly of November and the beginning of a president’s new time period on Jan. 20. The Structure, in addition to state and federal election legal guidelines, would assist information the nation by way of the method. However with no precedent, the result is way from sure.

The Home of Representatives has the ultimate say on who wins the presidency. Earlier than the Home might need to take cost, there are roles for political events, state legislatures, the Electoral Faculty, the courts and, most significantly, voters.

Listed below are some questions and solutions about what may occur if a presidential candidate dies, earlier than or after the election:


Sure, however not this near Election Day. Almost 63 million ballots have already been despatched to voters, with practically 3 million votes already solid. The deadline for candidates to withdraw has handed in all however two states — South Carolina and Connecticut — and their deadlines are a couple of days away.

The date of the election is about by federal legislation — the Tuesday after the primary Monday in November — which falls this yr on Nov. 3. Solely Congress can change the date of the election.

“It might be unattainable to vary ballots presently with out delaying the election and beginning the voting course of over once more,” mentioned Richard Hasan, a legislation professor on the College of California–Irvine Faculty of Legislation. “I do not suppose Congress goes to do this.”

However it’s necessary to do not forget that in a presidential election, voters aren’t really casting ballots for candidates. As an alternative, they’re voting for slates of electors who will decide the president and vp as members of the Electoral Faculty. To win the presidency, a candidate should win the backing of a majority of electors — 270 — within the Electoral Faculty.

In trendy U.S. elections, the assembly of the Electoral Faculty is actually a ceremonial affirmation of the selection made by voters. This yr, it is going to happen on Dec. 14. But when the successful candidate is not alive, it might be something however routine.

“The query is, Who would the electors help?” mentioned Richard Pildes, a constitutional legislation professor at New York College.


The twentieth Modification says the time period of the present president and vp ends at midday on Jan. 20. There is no such thing as a provision to increase it. The modification additionally says if the president-elect dies, the vice president-elect shall be sworn in as president firstly of the brand new time period.

Nonetheless, the successful candidate does not change into president-elect till a joint session of Congress counts the votes from the Electoral Faculty and declares a winner, Pildes mentioned.

By legislation, Congress is scheduled to formally obtain the votes from the Electoral Faculty on Jan. 6. The brand new Congress, which will likely be elected in November and sworn into workplace on Jan. 3, will preside.


“That’s the worst, most complicated time,” mentioned John Fortier, director of governmental research on the Bipartisan Coverage Middle. “They’re going to have to determine what to do with (Electoral Faculty) votes solid for a candidate who has died.”

If the successful candidate dies earlier than the Electoral Faculty meets, the electors might coalesce round a substitute candidate beneficial by the occasion, maybe the vice presidential candidate.

“For essentially the most half, these persons are picked as a result of they’re loyal occasion folks,” Fortier mentioned. “You could possibly have a couple of stray right here or there, however they don’t seem to be rebels.”

A celebration’s electors would have an incentive to coalesce round one candidate, he mentioned, as a result of they would not wish to danger throwing the election to the opposite occasion. However there is no such thing as a assure they’d all agree on a substitute candidate.

Some states have legal guidelines that require electors to vote for the presidential candidate who received the statewide vote; different states might rapidly move legal guidelines governing the electors within the occasion {that a} candidate dies.

“The occasion can say what the occasion needs, however the states would resolve what to do with these electors,” Hasan mentioned.

The Supreme Court docket dominated unanimously in July that states might require electors to help the candidate picked by voters within the election. Nonetheless, the courtroom left open what would occur if the candidate dies.

“Nothing on this opinion needs to be taken to allow the states to bind electors to a deceased candidate,” Justice Elena Kagan wrote in a footnote to her majority opinion.

If this occurs, count on litigation.


The twelfth Modification to the Structure offers Congress the ultimate say on who’s elected president and vp. Congress decides whether or not to just accept or reject slates of electors from the Electoral Faculty and to find out whether or not a candidate has received the required 270 electoral votes to change into president.

As a verify on this energy, each the Home and Senate should conform to reject a slate of electors. If the 2 chambers do not agree, the electors get counted underneath federal legislation, mentioned Michael Morley, an assistant legislation professor at Florida State College.

If no candidate reaches 270 electoral votes, the Home chooses the president and the Senate chooses the vp, in a course of spelled out within the Structure.

Within the Home, every state delegation will get one vote for president, and so they should select among the many three candidates who acquired essentially the most votes within the Electoral Faculty. Presently, Republicans have a majority in 26 state delegations, however the numbers might change after the November elections and a brand new Congress takes workplace.

The Senate would select the vp by a easy majority vote.

Election specialists mentioned they would not count on the courts to play a task at this level as a result of the Structure clearly grants Congress the authority to resolve a disputed election for president.

The Supreme Court docket did successfully resolve the 2000 presidential election in favor of Republican George W. Bush by ending the recount in Florida. However the courtroom’s ruling got here earlier than the Electoral Faculty votes had been introduced to Congress.

“It’s actually in Congress’ fingers after the electors have voted,” Fortier mentioned.


Congress has determined three presidential elections, nevertheless it’s been nearly 150 years, in keeping with a historical past of the Home printed by the chamber.

In 1800, Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr tied within the Electoral Faculty vote, with 73 electors apiece. After six days of debate and 36 ballots, the Home selected Jefferson because the nation’s third president.

In 1824, Andrew Jackson received a a plurality of the favored vote and essentially the most Electoral Faculty votes. However he failed to succeed in a majority in a four-candidate race, and the Home selected certainly one of his opponents, John Quincy Adams, to change into the nation’s sixth president. Jackson received the presidency 4 years later.

Congress additionally helped select the president following the election in 1876 between Republican Rutherford B. Hayes and Democrat Samuel Tilden. Tilden received the favored vote and the electoral rely. However Republicans challenged the ends in three Southern states, which had submitted slates of electors for each candidates, in keeping with the Home historical past.

To resolve the dispute, Congress arrange a bipartisan fee of Home members, senators and Supreme Court docket justices. After reducing a deal to take away federal troops from the South, ending Reconstruction following the Civil Struggle, the fee voted alongside occasion strains to award the presidency to Hayes.


Stephen Ohlemacher is the Election Determination Editor for The Related Press.

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