Party would make the call to replace dead candidate
If the president-elect dies before being sworn in, the vice president-elect becomes president, but what happens if a party's nominee dies before the election? Does the vice presidential nominee then become the nominee for president? What would happen if a person with the required number of delegates to be nominated dies before actually being nominated?
Answer: While federal election laws lay out the rules for having candidates placed on the ballot of a presidential election, it is up to the political parties to decide who their nominees are.
The rules of each political party would determine how the successors are chosen. Traditionally, Democrats and Republicans provide that their national committees would select a replacement nominee, whether by death or otherwise.
When Democratic Sen. Thomas Eagleton resigned in July 1972 as the vice presidential nominee, the Democratic National Committee nominated Sargent Shriver as the vice presidential candidate.
The rules of the major political parties do not specify how the replacements are chosen.
There is nothing in the U.S. Constitution covering the nomination of presidential/vice presidential candidates, points out Neal Milner, professor of political science at the University of Hawaii.
"Basically, almost everything about the selection of candidates is really a private matter," he said. "It's not an officially sanctioned process."
That also explains why there are variations in how the nominees are selected in each state, whether by caucuses or primaries or nothing at all, he said. "That's pretty much a party thing."
Some election laws do come into play. But while there are rules that regulate elections and rules that regulate what is required to get on the ballot, "how the parties determine who they're bringing forward is up to the party," Milner said.
"That's why the national conventions are private matters. They've got nothing to do with the U.S. government."
Meanwhile, Milner checked with the state Office of Elections to find out what technically would happen if an official party nominee died before an election.
In Hawaii, "some kind of official letter would have to come from the national committee saying, 'This is the new nominee,'" he said.
If this happens before the ballots are printed, the name of the new candidate would be printed on the ballot. If it happens after the ballots are printed, official notification would then be made at the polling places, Milner said.
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