What happens if a presidential nominee withdraws or dies before an election? How does a political party replace its nominee? What happens at the electoral college? Find out from Prof. Pildes.
Professor Richard Pildes is a professor at NYU Law. He is a leading authority on constitutional law and a specialist in legal issues affecting democracy.
Richard Pildes: What happens if the presidential nominee of one of the political parties dies or has to withdraw before the election actually takes place? This has only happened once in American history, not with the presidential candidate but the vice presidential candidate. There are three layers of issues that actually have to be resolved. The first and the most important is what does the political party do to try to replace its nominee. I can tell you the answer for the Democratic party, for example. There is a committee called the Democratic National Committee who are given the power to replace a party’s nominee. The second question is how does that nominee get on the ballot to actually represent the party in the presidential election? And here ,the answer is going to turn on the different state laws that regulate access to the ballot. They vary in different states and they have rules about how much time in advance of an election you must act if you want to replace a nominee. Some of those deadlines can be fairly tight. So what happens if the nominee dies let’s say six or seven weeks before the election or has to withdraw and the state law doesn’t permit a replacement candidate? Well at that point, I can guarantee you we will have constitutional challenges immediately brought to those state laws trying to permit the party and its supporters to be able to vote for a living nominee. Then the third question, the final question, becomes what happens when the electors vote in the electoral college? For example, suppose a state law doesn’t permit the party to withdraw a nominee who’s died a week or two before the election, and let’s say it's a state that still supports the party and voters actually vote for the dead nominee and the party to express their support for the party. Now the electors in the electoral college, what do they do? Do they vote for the dead nominee who’s won the state’s election or do they vote for the party’s replacement candidate who isn’t actually on the ballot? And here, we get into more and more messy and unresolved legal and constitutional questions, but at the end of the day, the question will be, do the electors have the constitutional power to vote for the candidate they prefer even if that candidate isn’t on the ballot because the party’s actual nominee has died? This is Richard Pildes. Thank you for watching TalksOnLaw.