President Donald Trump has tested positive for COVID-19. Trump is 74 years old, and not to mention overweight. Advanced age and obesity are two factors that put someone at high risk of death from COVID-19. So what would happen if the president died just before the U.S. election? How would this affect the election? Who would the new presidential candidate be? And how would this new candidate be chosen?
If something like this did happen, it would be for the first time. The closest anything like this has happened before occured in 1912,
when a vice-presidential candidate died just days before the election. But what if, instead of a vice president passing away, it was the
president, just weeks before the election?
Normally, if a president dies while in office, the vice president would take over. So Vice President Mike Pence would take over the role of commander in chief along with any other presidential duties. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that Pence would be the Republican Party’s presidential nominee in the upcoming election. Although he would be the most likely choice to be the new presidential nominee, it isn’t guaranteed.
If the president dies, the Republican National Committee would have to vote again to decide who their new nominee would be. And sure, let’s assume it is going to be Pence. If this had happened six months ago, the Republican party would have been able to put Pence’s name on the ballot.
But since it’s so close to the election, there would be no way to change what’s on the voting ballot. Each state has a deadline to put new candidates on the ballot, and those deadlines have passed. And there’s another small detail. Early voters have already cast their ballot. So this is where things could get complicated. People could still be voting for Trump on the ballot, but technically it could be for the Republican Party’s new candidate, Mike Pence.
And although Joe Biden tested negative shortly after the first presidential debate, what if he contracted COVID-19 and then died? Well, it would be largely the same process. The democratic party would need to nominate a new candidate. Kamala Harris would be one of the top choices but who’s to say Bernie Sanders wouldn’t get nominated?
This process would once again be messy, complicated and at times pretty scary. Americans voting for Joe Biden on the ballot might not know exactly who they’d be voting for if something like this happened. Now, what if Trump were to win the election on November 3rd and then died shortly after?
Well, since this has never happened before, there is definitely some uncertainty in this scenario. After November 3rd, when all the votes have been cast, the electoral college of each state would meet to vote for a new President, based on how many votes each candidate received. If this happened, most state electors would just vote for the vice presidential nominee as president. But other states specifically state that electors must vote for the name on the ballot. And in this case, that would be Trump.
This could open the door for months of legal actions and courtroom battles. But regardless, the Twentieth Amendment to the United States Constitution states that if a president-elect dies, the vice president-elect would become president. But there’s still lots of uncertainty and complications about how this could play out. And could the president dying or getting sick delay the election?
Well, the president doesn’t have the power to do that, and although Congress could delay it, it’s very unlikely it would happen. What’s most likely to happen if the president dies this close to the election is that Mike Pence would be the new Republican nominee. And if the Republican party wins, then Mike Pence would become the president of the United States.
But what if Pence were to get sick and die? Morbid, I know, but it is a question worth asking. If that were to happen,then the Speaker of the House, Nanci Pelosi, would become President. And If she were to die, it would go to the president Pro Tempore of the Senate. And if that person dies? Then it would go down a list of secretaries of the cabinet. And hopefully, all the dying stops at that point.
But since something like this has never happened before, the results could be complicated and we don’t know exactly what would happen. 2020 throws us another curve ball. But do you want to know some tips on how to survive this crazy year? Check out our new show How to Survive.”
- “Trump Tests Positive For Covid-19: What Happens If A US Presidential Candidate Is Incapacitated Or Dies Before The Election?“. GHOSH, NIRMAL. 2020. The Straits Times.
- “Donald Trump’s Age And Weight May Cause Covid Complications, Doctors Say“. Davey, Melissa. 2020. The Guardian.
- “What Happens If A Presidential Candidate Dies Or Is Ill Before An Election?“.Zeltmann, Britta. 2020. The Sun.
- “How The Electoral College Works”. Garden, Home, HowStuffWorks, Culture, People, Government, and Elections. 2000. Howstuffworks.
- “Who Is The Republican Nominee If Trump Dies Before The Election?“.Merelli, Annalisa. 2020. Quartz.