No candidate in the US presidential election has so far passed away or had to retire before the election itself. However, the hospitalization of US President Donald Trump, due to the infection just a month before the November 3 elections, raised questions about what would happen if that happened.
Trump is 74 years old, and his opponent, who is reportedly in relatively good health, Joe Biden is 77 and is the oldest Democratic candidate in history.
Will the election be postponed if the president leaves the race?
“I don’t see that happening, it’s unlikely for something like that. It’s hard for a Democratic majority to want to postpone the election,” said Capri Cafaro, a former Democratic member of the Ohio Senate and current professor at American University.
As she pointed out, the election date is a legal category and they are always held on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November. Both the House of Congress and the Democratic-majority House of Representatives and the Republican-majority Senate would have to agree to the adjournment.
Even during the American Civil War in 1864, elections were held according to plan and Abraham Lincoln won a second term.
Is it possible to replace presidential candidates?
In the event that the option of replacing the presidential candidates is considered, both the Republican and Democratic parties, if necessary, have rules for doing so.
In the case of the Republican Party, 186 members of the party’s National Committee could vote to elect Trump’s deputy.
The committee could also convene a national convention with more than 2,500 delegates to choose a new candidate, but due to the short timeframe, this is probably not feasible.
A simple majority would be needed in both scenarios.
With the Democrats, the new candidate would be chosen by close to 450 members of the party’s National Committee.
If a candidate is replaced, it is unlikely that his name will be on the ballot.
The reason is that they have already been printed and more than three million Americans have already voted by mail.
“There really isn’t enough time to reprint ballots that will read Mike Pence or Kamala Harris,” Capri Cafaro said, referring to Republican and Democratic vice presidential candidates.
What about the electoral college?
Although this is a general election, an absolute majority of 538 members of the Electoral College is required to elect a president.
In every US state except Nebraska and Maine, the candidate who gets the majority of votes in the state gets all of her electoral votes.
Nothing in the constitution obliges voters to vote for this or that candidate, but the Supreme Court ruled in July that states could punish the so-called disobedient voters who will not vote at the will of the majority of voters.
Members of the Electoral College will gather in their states on December 14 and vote for president and vice president.
In the event that a candidate dies or withdraws before the electors vote, things could get complicated.
The laws of individual federal states then apply, but each party could in theory instruct its electors to vote for an alternate candidate.
Congress will confirm the election results on January 6 next year, and the winner will take over the presidency on January 20.