Elections and presidential politics sometimes turn out to be difficult matter. Luckily, at Teach About US we have a team of distinguished experts on the 2016 election who can help us solve (most) of these tough questions. This time David Goldfield, Robert Lee Bailey Professor of History at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, took the time to address two issues that have been raised by our participants recently.
What happens when a candidate suddenly can't run for President anymore?
The first question comes from Susanne Aldoais, a teacher from Erlangen who is participating in the election project with her 12th-grade English class at Emmy Noether Gymnasium. She asks:
“What would happen if one the presidential candidates suddenly couldn’t run for president anymore? Would he or she be automatically replaced by his or her running mate? Would the results of the primaries / caucuses still play a role? Who decides in this case?”
Here is Dr. Goldfield’s take on this:
“Dear Susanne, there is no law or constitutional provision governing the replacement of a presidential candidate who dies prior to the general election. In that case, it's strictly up to the Democratic National Committee or the Republican National Committee to name a replacement. There are no additional primaries or any other mechanism for the voters to weigh in on the decision. Three likely scenarios would be to elevate the Vice Presidential candidate to the top slot (but then the party would have to name a new Vice Presidential candidate); the party could go to the voters' second choice in the primaries (Sanders for the Democrats; Cruz for the Republicans); or, the party could select a prominent officeholder who did not participate in the primaries but who carries significant respect and influence. In the Democrats' case this would be Vice President Joe Biden. I'm not sure whom the Republicans would turn to in this third scenario.”
From The Washington Post, “What happens if a U.S. presidential candidate withdraws (or dies) before the election is over?”, Joshua Tucker, September 14, 2016
“What if a party’s nominee dies or voluntarily withdraws before the November election?
Three layers have to be unraveled on this question. First, and probably most important, is how a party goes about replacing its nominee. In the Democratic Party, the formal decision-making body is clear. The chair of the Democratic National Committee (currently Donna Brazile) would call a special meeting of the DNC, which is roughly a 447-person body. That body has the power to replace the party nominee, as far as the party is concerned. This is how the Democratic Party replaced Thomas Eagleton with Sargent Shriver as the VP candidate after the 1972 convention.
But how the DNC goes about making the choice — under what rules, through what process — is not spelled out further in the party rules.
On the Republican side, it would also be the Republican National Committee that would have the power to choose a replacement nominee (though the RNC is a smaller body, around 150 members, than the DNC).
Second, once the party comes up with a new nominee, the question becomes whether that candidate can now get on the ballot in various states to replace the convention’s nominee. This is an issue of state law, handled differently in different states. In some states, it is formally too late at this point to replace a party nominee for the presidential election. But the courts might well conclude that state laws that allow too short a time for replacement in the case of death or withdrawal, in a presidential election, are themselves unconstitutional.
Third, and finally, we are back to the question of how the electors vote. Suppose the convention’s nominee cannot be replaced on the ballot in time but has died or withdrawn. The party has chosen an alternative, through the process above, but that person can’t get on the ballot. And now voters who support the party — let’s say Democrats — vote for the Democratic candidate on the ballot, even though he or she has withdrawn, to express their support for the Democratic Party. What does the elector do?
(…) Presumably the elector would like to vote for the person the Democratic Party has chosen to replace its nominee and does so. If state law prohibits that, is the state law unconstitutional? Is Congress obligated to accept this vote?”
Read the article here
Why do voters split their votes?
We received a second question from Simon Schilde. Simon’s 11th-grade course at Max-Planck-Schule in Gelsenkirchen adopted the state of Massachusetts and he and his classmates were wondering about this aspect:
“My question is why Massachusetts tends to vote for Democratic presidential candidates, despite voting for Republican governors?”
Again, David Goldfield:
“Dear Simon, if you look at some of the recent Republican governors, like Charlie Baker, Mitt Romney, and William Weld, you will see that they fall into the category of "moderate" Republicans. In the case of Baker, his Democratic opponent, Martha Coakley, ran a horrible campaign in 2014. The Republican Party in Massachusetts is very much different from the rest of the Republican Party outside New England. Equally, if not more important, the state's governors are typically elected in "off" years—that is, years when there is no presidential election. Baker was elected in 2014, for example. Off-year elections tend to favor Republicans because the turnout among minorities and young people is generally lower than during the presidential election years.”
This phenomenon of divergent majorities in presidential vs. congressional elections in some states, like Massachusetts, is often referred to as ‘split-ticket voting’. There are various reasons for that. First off, it is the year 2016 and despite the current campaign rhetoric, one thing all pollsters can easily agree upon is that both major presidential candidates have historically low approval ratings. It isn't diffucult to imagine that some Republican-leaning voters would not give Mr. Trump their vote in November but still support the Republican candidates for Congress. The Democratic party might be facing a similar challenge, albeit to a lesser degree. As the New York Times recently described, Charles Kress (62) of York, Pennsylvania, is one such example:
“Senator Patrick J. Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania, has never met Charles Kress, but he desperately needs him. Mr. Kress, 62, will vote for a Democrat this November for the White House, he said, no matter what. He is also planning to vote for Mr. Toomey’s re-election. 'Sometimes you have to keep in office the ones who make the deals,' Mr. Kress said as he watered the flowers in front of York’s Unitarian church.”
(Read the article here.)
Split-ticket voting could possibly play a role in this year’s presidential election, but as the Washington Post reports, it has generally declined in recent election cycles. One major reason: “As the country gets more polarized, it would make sense that people would be less likely to split their votes between parties.”
(Read the article here.)
Thank you again to Simon and Susanne for your questions. And now it’s YOUR turn! Don’t hesitate to address any of the U.S. election experts and post your questions directly in the expert database.
They will be forwarded to the experts and we will post their answers in the blog.
So stay tuned and grasp at the unique chance of getting your questions answered by U.S. election experts.
Janina Schmidt obtained her B.A. in teaching Economics and English as a Second Language (ESL) at Leuphana University Lüneburg in 2014. After earning her Master's degree (expected 09/2017), Janina intends to teach ESL as well as English for Specific Purposes with an economic focus at vocational schools. As a student assistant she currently supports the development of the U.S. Elections Project 2016.