what happens if a presidential candidate dies?

Between say now and election, what would happen if either the incumbent or challenger candidate dies or steps down?

If the incumbent president should die between now and November 2, the vice-president would become president. What was the president’s re-election committee would quickly be retooled to have the former vice-president elected president.

Each state has a deadline (no joke intended) by which a candidate can be added to the ballots. If it was too late to remove the dead president’s name from the ballot, his supporters would understand to vote for him anyway, as the dead president’s votes would go to his running mate too.

If the presidential candidate of the main opposite party should die between now and November 2, his party no doubt would support his running mate in his place. As above, if it were too late to remove the dead candidate’s name from the ballots in a particular state, his supporters would know to vote for him anyway since the votes would also go to his running mate.

You may wonder — if it were too late to get the dead person’s name off the ballot, and his running mate takes his place, who would be the new running mate (the new vice-presidential candidate)?

The vice-presidential candidate turned presidential candidate would pick a running mate on his own, and announce it to the public. Because members of Electoral College are not bound to follow the popular vote (although 99.9% of the time they do), they can vote for that new running mate when they vote in January, even though he did not appear on the ballots in November.

Correction: The members of the Electoral College vote on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December (December 13, 2004). More on the procedure here.

Hey, Ronnie, remember when we met at the Carolina County Ball and you promised to call me? You never did, dude. I mean, I know there were twenty-six girls in line ahead of me, but dammit, you promised!!!

Althought this scenario has never happened in the Presidential race, it has happened in some other recent races such as the 2000 U.S. Senate race in Missouri. The actual deadline for changing the name on the ballot varies from state to state, but is typically two to three months.

In 1995 TV commentator Jeff Greenfield wrote a very funny satirical novel called The People’s Choice in which the president-elect dies after the election but before the Electoral College has voted him in, and the vice president-elect is a complete doofus whom no one wants as president. A group of electors, who had committed to vote for the president-elect, refuses to vote for the VPE, and all hell breaks loose.

It’s a very enjoyable read, based on a situation for which the Constitution does not provide clear guidance. It’s not exactly the case presented by the OP (in the book the candidate dies after the election, but before the Electoral College acts), but pretty close.

good to see youre still around

In case of THAT particular scenario, Hilary automatically becomes president.

Federal law is basically silent on the replacing of candidates, that’s left up to the states and the parties. Federal law is silent or ambigous if death occurs after the election but before actually taking office.

We’ve had two cases of death of major candidates. Both had lost badly, so it didn’t cause an uproar. In 1912 the sitting VP James Sherman was renominated and died about a week before the election. In 1872, Presidential nominee Horace Greeley died between his defeat and the voting in the electoral college.

Remember that only 538 Americans get to vote for President. Everybody else gets to elect three or more of those 538 to the job of being Electors who vote for President.

If GWB dies between now and the reading of the Electoral College votes, Dick Cheney is inaugurated as President, following a precedent dating back to 1841. The electors chosen by states that went Republican (plus any Republican electors from Nebraska and Maine, where the results can be split) then vote for their choice for President – presumably Dick, though they’re theoretically free to select whomever they wish. In the event that JFK dies in that period, the Greeley precedent is probably what they would follow – they vote for whom they feel would be the best living candidate. In point of fact, if the Democrats get a majority of electors, there would undoubtedly be a movement to make John Edwards their unanious choice in order to make him President.


What precedent? Mr. Cheney will become president should Mr. Bush die during their elected terms of office, but that’s a matter law. AFAIK, there was no death of major candidates until after the 1841 inauguration of President, nor was the selection made by either house.

From the constitution, it doesn’t seem the House or Senate can choose the next President or VP, except from the top two/three vote getters within the electroal college for that office.

About half the states bind the electors to some degree. Some states may require ABSOLUTELY that each vote the way pledged. Without examining particular state requirements, it’s not possible to say what exactly might happen should a candidate die before the electoral college votes.

While an elector may vote for whomever he or she likes under any circumstances, the electors are nominated by political parties at the state level within the same process by which the parties’ Presidential candidates are nominated at the national level. That process does provide for filling a vacancy in the party’s nominee for President or Vice President – generally speaking, the party’s national committee can either nominate a candidate itself (as the Democratic Party in 1972 nominated Sargent Shriver for Vice President after the candidate that the Democratic National Convention nominated, Thomas Eagleton, withdrew), or can recall its national convention for the purpose of nominating another candidate. The party’s electors, with rare exception, will honor that process and will vote for the party’s new nominee.

While the choice of electors at the state level and the nomination of candidates at the national level may not seem like part of a single process, the national party organizations closely regulate both the election of state delegates to their national conventions, and the state party’s nomination of Presiential electors. Any state party organization that does not conform to the national party’s process may have its delegation challenged at the national convention – a serious threat, even though it hasn’t been carried out since 1964, when the Mississippi “Freedom” delegation challenged the delegates that the Missisissippi Democratic Party had credentialed to the Democratic National Convention. I served on the commission that drafted the current Presidential Delegate Selection Plan for the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (the Minnesota version of the Democratic Party), and the national party organization was heavily involved in reviewing and critiquing the draft plan.

Polycarp’s example involved what happened “if GWB dies between now and the reading of the Electoral College votes” – that is, if he dies during the term for which he was chosen and which he is now serving. The rules in that case are the run-of-the-mill Presidential succession rules: the Vice President succeeds to the Presidency. The facts that an election is pending, and that the incumbent president is also a candidate to succeed himself, are irrelevant to the succession (although they would be very relevant to the nomination and election of a candidate for the next Presidential term).

Polycarp is referring to the “Tyler precedent,” under which Vice President John Tyler assumed the Presidency when President William Henry Harrison died a month after taking office. The Constitution’s Presidential-succession clause provides:

U.S. Const., art. II, § 1, cl. 6. It is unclear whether the antecedent of “the Same” is “Office,” or “Powers and Duties.” Professor Ruth Silva, who wrote the seminal work on Presidential succession following the Presidential Succession Act of 1947 (which is still the law today), concluded that “the framers of the Constitution intended a Vice President … merely to act as President until the President’s disability should be removed or until another President could be elected… The antecedent of ‘the Same’ … was clearly intended to be ‘Powers and Duties of the said Office’ rather than ‘said Office.’” Ruth C. Silva, Presidential Succession 8 (1951). The leading modern scholar on the subject, John Feerick, concurs. John D. Feerick, From Failing Hands 50-51 (1965).

The first time that a President died in office – President Harrison in 1841 – there was considerable confusion about whether the Vice President, John Tyler, had become the President or simply the acting President. But Tyler and Secretary of State Daniel Webster asserted that “the Same” referred to the Presidential office rather than merely to its powers and duties and, over some objection, successfully established the “Tyler precedent” under which a Vice President succeeds to the Presidential office. Silva at 14-24; Feerick, From Failing Hands, at ch. 7; John D. Feerick, The Twenty-Fifth Amendment 5-7 (1976).

Seven other Presidents died in office, and their seven Vice Presidents followed the Tyler precedent, which eventually occasioned little objection. But doubt lingered. Especially when the Vice President-turned-President was not very popular: the House of Representatives impeached Andrew Johnson as “Vice President and acting President of the United States” and “Vice President of the United States, discharging the powers and duties of the office of President.” Silva at 25 (quoting Cong. Globe, 39th Cong., 2d Sess. 319-20 (1867)). The Tyler precedent’s validity was the subject of litigation as late as Vice President Lyndon Johnson’s succession after President Kennedy’s assassination in 1963. Feerick, From Failing Hands, at 10 n.

When the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Constitutional Amendments began considering Presidential succession and disability after President Kennedy’s assassination, they felt the need to address in their proposed constitutional amendment what Senator Sam Ervin called “the ghost that has troubled some constitutionalists since the death of William Henry Harrison … the constitutional ghost that has been stalking to and fro in America ever since that time.” Birch Bayh, One Heartbeat Away 146 (1968). Which is why the Twenty-Fifth Amendment, ratified in 1967, eventually provided in its opening section that “*n case of the removal of the President from office or of his death or resignation, the Vice President shall become President.” U.S. Const., amend. XXV, § 1. You might have thought that, by 1967, that fact could have gone without saying, being so firmly enshrined in American constitutional history after eight Presidents had died in office and eight Vice Presidents had succeeded them. But so potent was the ambiguity of “the Same” that two-thirds of each House of Congress, and three-fourths of the States, felt it necessary to correct that ambiguity in a Constitutional amendment.

Techincally, therefore, aahala is correct: the succession in Polycarp’s example is “a matter law.” The Tyler precedent is no longer the basis for Vice Presidential succession to the Presidency; since the 25th amendment was ratified in 1967, the amendment’s section 1 has furnished a surer footing for the Vice President’s succession than the Tyler precedent did.

Techincally, therefore, aahala is correct: the succession in Polycarp’s example is “a matter law.” The Tyler precedent is no longer the basis for Vice Presidential succession to the Presidency; since the 25th amendment was ratified in 1967, the amendment’s section 1 has furnished a surer footing for the Vice President’s succession than the Tyler precedent did.[/QUOTE]

Should one get partial credit for inadvertently making a correct statement while confused?

When I responsed to Ploycarp, I mistakenly thought he was using the Tyler example as a precendent for candidate replacement. I now realize he was making a statement about succession.

But my error was well rewarded, brian’s excellent post.

Are you asking what would happen if Kerry “accidently” stepped in front of a bus at the last minute or maybe a terrorist were to take out GWB?
1st case- GWB would maintain office until the Dems could get another candidate and running mate ready for the postponed election a couple of months later. They would have to find someone that would be endorsed. Not simply a matter of filling the slot with the VP candidate because then a new runningmate would also need to be picked.
2nd case- Cheney would assume until the rescheduled election was made.
Sounds like maybe Kerry ought to watch his step, huh?

There is no precedent for a postponed presidential election, for the postponement of counting the votes of the Electoral College, or for the postponing of the inaguruation of the president. The beginning and ends of presidential terms are set by the Constitution, and cannot be legally contravened without changing the Constitution.

This is incorrect. Read Walloon’s and Polycarp’s posts. Kerry’s name would still be on the ballot - actually, slates of electors pledged to him. People would be able to vote for those electors. And those electors would be free to vote for someone else when the electoral ballots are cast - presumably Edwards. They would also presumably vote for a vice-presidential candidate chosen by the Dems in the meantime.

As Walloon says, there is no Constitutional provision to postpone the election for any reason.

The year was 1972.

Democratic nominee for vice president, Thomas Eagleton, withdrew from the ticket a few days after he was nominated, after it was discovered he had undergone treatment for depression.

The Democratic National Committee convened in a special meeting and chose Sargent Srhiver to take Eagleton’s place on the ticket. (The McGovern-Shriver ticket lost to Nixon-Agnew by one of the most humiliating margins in American electoral history.)

If a candidate for President or Vice President dies or withdraws before the election, the party’s National Committee will nominate a replacement.

If the candidate dies after the election but before the Electoral College convenes, the electors are free to cast their votes for whomever. Presumably, they will take their marching orders from their party.

If the candidate dies after the electoral votes are counted, but before the nomination, the Vice President elect will become President-elect and will nominate a new Vice President.

Regarding the first paragraph above. About half the states bind electors voting in some way. Whether electors in those states would be automatically free to vote for someone else, rather than a dead man, would depend upon the individual statutes and possible court rulings. My WAG is that at least some such states do not specially address this issue.

I’m not entirely clear what you are claiming in the second paragraph. If you’re simply saying the VP elect will eventually become President and at that time can submit his choice of VP to congress, I agree.

If you’re claiming Congress can make the VP elect the President elect , there is no general constitutional provision for this, IMO. Congress only verifies the electoral results for each office. If it determines noone received a majority for President, the House choses from the top 2, and for VP the Senate selects from the top 3. There is no provision I’m aware of that this process permits replacing a dead top vote getter with another, or permitting a top VP as President or vice versa.

A VP elect can of course annouce his choice for a new VP before he becomes President, but congress can’t act at that time. There’s no line of succession until an individual is an actual officerholder.

what happens if a presidential candidate dies?

Nixon wins.
But then, Bobby wasn’t actually nominated was he? I think he was about to be.

RFK had just won the California primary when he was assassinated in June 1968. Although he might have been nominated, many delegates were still still controlled by party bosses in those days, and they mostly supported Humphrey. It was far from certain at that point that Kennedy would have been nominated. The convention was’t until August.