In what now seems a particularly prescient piece of journalism, back in April, fivethirtyeight.com asked the question “What Happens If A Presidential Nominee Can No Longer Run For Office?".
The article was prompted by two observations:
- Covid-19 is particularly bad for older people.
- Trump and Biden are two of the oldest presidential candidates we’ve ever had.
Three scenarios are examined, involving death or incapition of a candidate…
- before the convention - Interesting to learn about the process for that event but obviously it didn’t happen.
- between the conventions and the election - The Republicans have rules for this possibility and, not suprisingly, Mike Pence would likely get the nod. The Dems are less prepared, in terms of official rules, but I have a hard time imagining anyone other than Kamala Harris becoming the nominee.
- after election and before electoral college meets on December 14 - This scenario would be uncharted waters.
Finally, what happens if a candidate dies just days before the election?
It’d probably be really hard to pick a replacement in time to update ballots, as most deadlines to certify state ballots would have passed by early October — not to mention other logistical hurdles that could pose problems, such as mailing ballots for overseas military service members in time, or making last-minute adjustments to absentee ballots. It’s entirely possible that if the candidate died only a few days before Nov. 3, voters might not know who the party’s nominee was when they go to the polls.
Due to the pandemic, many states have recently pass laws expanding mail-in voting. In fact, 84% of the American voting public now have the option to vote by mail and are doing so at an unprecedented rate this year. What happens if the candidate you already voted for dies before the election?
In short, if something like this happens, buckle your seat belts, it’s going to make Bush v. Gore look like a walk in the park.
“We’ve been lucky. We have actually had some presidents who have died shortly after taking office but not somebody who died either between the convention and the election, or after being elected and becoming the president-elect.” And if that were to happen this year, it would likely create intraparty division, uncertainty among voters or a tidal wave of litigation. Let’s hope that the country’s luck doesn’t run out in 2020.