(Aug. 6) It’s worth asking: What would happen if health problems caused one or both major-party presidential nominees to withdraw from the November ballot after each party’s national convention has concluded?

With two presumptive nominees well into their 70s, and with a pandemic raging, the question is very reasonable. One need not cast aspersions on the mental capacities of either candidate to suggest that both parties should prepare for such a situation, just in case such an unfortunate eventuality arises.

The identity of the replacement candidates would be a tricky question for either party. But fortunately, it’s quite easy to find, clearly spelled out in the rules of each party, the method for filling vacancies on the national tickets.

In both cases, national committee members would not be bound by primary, caucus, or convention results. If a vacancy occurs, the committee members can make whatever choice they think is best for their parties’ beliefs and political fortunes.

Each of the two major parties has ballot access for the presidential election in all 50 states. And the ballot line belongs to the party — not the individual candidate. As long as the party meets each state’s deadline for filling the ballot line, the party, acting through its national committee, can decide what name to put on it.

Barring some crisis, the rules for both parties make the choice of the national party conventions paramount. Neither party committee can easily force a replacement for the nominee chosen by the conventions — but both committees can fill a spot that becomes empty through withdrawal or death. And the rules of each quite specifically provide for such circumstances, including a provision for a meeting to be called to handle such a vacancy.

The composition of the Republican National Committee is simple, but its rules for filling a spot on the national ticket are complicated. The composition of the Democratic National Committee is complicated, but its rule for filling the spot is simple….

[To read the rest of the column to see how all this works, please follow this link.]



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