What Happens If A Presidential Candidate Dies During An Election?

(ConservativeUnit.com)- Following the news President Donald Trump contracted COVID-19 in the early hours of October 2, 2020, the question of what would happen if a presidential candidate died or became incapacitated during a presidential election became a huge talking point.

The process is largely the same for both political parties, with some difference.

The Process for Republicans

The process for Republicans is dictated by the rules of the Republican National Committee. The 168 members of the governing body of the Republican Party, which is made up of three members from every state and three from America’s six territories, would cast their votes for a new candidate.

That new candidate would need to be elected by the RNC by a majority, and while it is entirely possible the sitting Vice President or the current VP candidate might get the job, that won’t necessarily be the case.

The Process for Democrats

For Democrats, the 447 members of the Democratic National Committee would need to choose a new candidate. The DNC chair would consult with the party’s Congressional leaders and state governors.

Again, the VP or the VP candidate does not automatically become the candidate – though it is possible they will if the DNC votes for them.

The Problem With the Ballots

Once a new candidate is chosen, the issue of the ballots comes next. The closer it is to election day the more difficult it is to resolve this issue. Ballots must be reprinted to include the name of the new candidate, but in elections where people have already begun voting via mail, this could present new problems.

Should the votes that are already cast be counted in the election, some might argue that they should automatically be transferred to the new candidate. This would mean electoral college members casting a vote for the party’s new candidate based solely on the fact that the party is the same. However, the rules on this are not clear and such a situation would likely result in court battles to determine whether support for a party’s candidate should automatically become support for the party’s new candidate.

What Happens If A Candidate Dies After the Vote?

Things get even more confusing if a presidential candidate dies after the vote takes place, but before the electoral college vote.

The first step involves the party picking a new candidate under the processes described above, but things get more contentious. The people will not be given the chance to vote again, meaning the electoral college will need to vote for the winner of the presidential election based on what they consider is the best course of action. This would likely result in many members of the electoral college simply voting for the new candidate of the same party, though could result in abstentions and, again, legal challenges.

There are no existing federal laws that say an elector in the electoral college is required to vote for the new candidate. Such a situation would be totally unprecedented.