A Question of Party Organization

I’ve been poking at the relevant election statues trying to figure out what happens when a candidate on the ballot dies before election day.  I’ve tried googling and have found nothing except that Westminster, in city elections, allows the replacement of a name on a ballot by a party until the date the ballot is sent to the printer.  Is Colorado one of the states where if a dead candidate wins the election then a special election is held?  Does Colorado generally allow the replacement of a name on the ballot if it has not yet gone to the printers?

The funny thing is that I got on this question because my boyfriend asked me a question I could not answer (other than to guess).  That being what if one of the candidates died before election day.  From there it spread to a more general inquiry.  

I’m fairly sure that with a presidential situation since we actually elect party selected electors instead of a president directly it would fall to the VP.  There would be a mad scramble for rule books and a lot of lobbying, but in the end there would be enough party discipline to just bump up the Veep nominee to the head of the ticket.  Because that is how things are expected to work and if something else happened the process could potentially go all funny.

An ambitious runner up from the primaries could cause trouble, but I think that senario before an election would probably just show “party in disarray” and all but guarantee a win for the other.  Unless the VP pick was willing to step aside ‘for the good of the party’.  But how many VP picks would be willing to step aside with the presidency just a sympathy vote away?

6 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. DavidThi808 says:

    As to who they would vote for, my guess is that a party committee would vote on their suggested replacement and that that would carry a lot of weight.

    In this election I think on the Dem side it would be Hillary, both because she came so close and the classy way she ended it at the DNC.

    On the Republican side it would be open warefare.

    • Precinct854 says:

      I think of far more import would be how Biden felt about Clinton.  If he wanted it enough he could keep going as Obama’s designated successor.  Unless he comes out to say, “No I’m happy being VP, give it to Clinton” I don’t see how Clinton could be anything but a spoiler.

      And, yeah, my boyfriend asked the question because of the Republican situation.  He saw Palin giving her and then McCain came out and he asked the question.  “What happens if McCain dies before election day?”  Very small chance of it, but without a strong VP pick I agree that it opens up more potential for intra party warfare.

  2. Dan Willis says:

    In the case of the Pres, the VP would be the person sworn in on Jan 20th. But keep in mind that the vote for President is not actually done until the Electoral Vote in mid-December. Since electors could theorectically decide to vote for the other party’s pres candidate if theirs was dead, this could have a bearing on the outcome.

    If the VP is the one who dies before Election Day, it is up to the presidential nominee to select another running mate.

    Colorado rules for other offices depends on how far before the election the candidate dies. If they died far enough out, the party’s vacancy committee can replace the candidate on the ballot with another choice. But if they die too close to the election – generally with 60 days – (and subsequently win anyway) then it follows these rules:

    US Senate, Sec of State, Atty Gen, Treasurer, CU Regent:

    Gov. appoints a replacement to be confirmed by the voters at the next general election. In the case of it being a change of Gov at the same time, the new Gov. does the appointment since the vacancy does not actually occur until the day they are all sworn in. In the case of US Senate, the outgoing Gov. could possibly squeak by getting an appointment in depending on the date the US Senate term sarts versus the date the Gov. leaves office.

    US Rep: A special election is planned. The timing is spelled out in statute, typically falls in the following Spring.

    Gov: The Lt Gov of the winning ticket takes over.

    Lt. Gov.: The Gov appoints a new one who then serves the remainder of the term.

    State Board of Ed, District Attorney, State Senate, State Rep:

    The vacancy committee of the winning canidate’s party selects a replacement and that person has to be confirmed at the next general election.

    • Precinct854 says:

      Good information about the dead candidate running scenario.  

      Cannot the electoral college (theoretically) vote for anyone?  I know a lot of states have laws to punish faithless electors, but I don’t think they’ve ever been enforced.  They’re all party loyalists so I doubt they would vote for the other party’s presidential candidate, but I think there is the potential that a party could settle on a candidate to be their elector’s choice.  Depending on precise circumstances.  

      • Dan Willis says:

        Each state has thier own criteria for a presidential candidate to be on the general election ballot. The electors can only vote for candidates who met that criteria.

        I know Colorado’s electors are free to vote for who they want, but not all states allow electors to change parties. I don’t know how many do and don’t

        • Precinct854 says:

          I am, at times, a master of trivia.  In 1912 the Republican VP candidate died before election day, but after his name was already on the ballot.

          James S. Sherman died Oct. 30th 1912.

          He was replaced by the Republican party with Nicholas Murray Butler.  Though the electors were pledged for James S. Sherman as VP they all voted for Nicholas Murray Butler, all eight of them.


          The states carried were Utah and Vermont. Both at this time have laws against faithless voting Utah (Utah Code Ann В§20A-13-304) Vermont (17 VSA В§2732) and in an article on Fair Vote it is implied they were on the books at the time as well.


          Also Colorado’s law, CRS В§1-4-304, directs them to vote, but does not provide for checks.

          “(5) Each presidential elector shall vote for the presidential candidate and, by separate ballot, vice-presidential candidate who received the highest number of votes at the preceding general election in this state.”

          All I can say is that if a major party presidential candidate ever drops dead between nomination and the date of the electoral college things are going to go very strange, very fast.  But I think, provided no one rocked to boat too hard from inside, chances are a party designating a new candidate would stand.

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