US election 2020: What happens if a US presidential candidate dies before the election

WION Web Team
Washington, United States Published: Oct 09, 2020, 05:12 PM(IST)

Trump and Biden Photograph:( AFP )

Story highlights

If a presidentail nominee dies shortly before or after the election, that is the Inaugration Day, the final call regarding the residency is of the House of Representatives. Before that, the House might take charge

With less than a month to go for the US election 2020, President Donald Trump is currently battling the novel coronavirus which has claimed over 200,000 American lives, raising several unanswered questions about the uncertain future.

He has pulled out of an October 15 debate with Democratic rival Joe Biden, blasting the debate commission's decision to make it a virtual event.

This has raised the question that what happens in the election, already well underway, should his condition take a turn for the worse.

Under Section 3 of the US Constitution's 25th Amendment, adopted in 1967 following the 1963 assassination of President John Kennedy, Trump could declare in writing his inability to discharge his duties.

Vice President Mike Pence would become acting president, although Trump would remain in office. The president would regain his powers by declaring in writing that he is again ready to discharge them.

The 25th Amendment's Section 4 also offers a path to stripping a president of power if, for instance, his Cabinet believes he has become incapacitated, but this has never been invoked.

However, if a presidentail nominee dies shortly before or after the election, that is the Inaugration Day, the final call regarding the residency is of the House of Representatives. Before that, the House might take charge.

Can political parties replace a candidate who dies?

Yes, political parties can take charge but not this close to the Election Day. More than 6.6 million Americans have already voted. This is 10 times the number who had voted at this stage in the 2016 election cycle, indicating a potentially record turnout for the November 3 contest.

The deadline for candidates to withdraw has passed in all states. The date of the election is set by the federal law and only Congress can change that date.

In a US election, voters do not elect the president directly. USA has an electoral college system. The candidate who secures more than 270 out of 538 electoral votes wins the election. After the popular vote, electors in each state mostly vote for the candidate that the popular vote has favoured.

Not every US state has the same number of electors. Number of electors in a state depends on that state's representation in the US Congress.

What happens if the winning candidate dies before the Congress decalres a winner?

If the winning candidate dies before the Electoral College meets, the electors could coalesce around a replacement candidate recommended by the party, perhaps the vice presidential candidate.

A party’s electors would have an incentive to coalesce around one candidate, he said, because they wouldn’t want to risk throwing the election to the other party. But there is no guarantee they would all agree on a replacement candidate.

Some states have laws that require electors to vote for the presidential candidate who won the statewide vote; other states could quickly pass laws governing the electors in the event that a candidate dies.

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously in July that states may require electors to support the candidate picked by voters in the election. However, the court left open what would happen if the candidate dies.

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