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If Hillary Dies, Who Would be the Democrat Nominee?

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By Douglas V. Gibbs
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As doubts about Hillary Clinton’s health arises, what happens if she dies before the election, or is elected but dies before taking office?

A reader asked exactly this:
Dear Douglas,
I have a question for you concerning Hillary Clinton. It seems that she is not in good health, and that the Dems are trying conceal this until the election. But personally I think she seems to be getting worse and may not make it till then. If she has to drop out before the election what happens then to the election? Do they need to give it to Sanders? Is there any hard and fast rule for this? Or as they usually do, make up a new rule?  As I’ve said before thank you for your articles.


I responded by explaining that no presidential candidate of a major party has ever died or withdrawn before a presidential election and no President-elect has ever died or withdrawn after winning the general election, but before taking office.  So, we have no precedent to go by.  As for the Constitution, primaries are the business of the political parties, and are not supposed to be subject to outside governmental influence.  That said, regarding party primaries and nominations, the procedures for finding replacements for candidate vacancies would be guided by party rules, and if necessary, State laws and regulations.  The federal government is not supposed to be involved, but we know they would be.  In Article I of the U.S. Constitution, the manners and procedures of elections are the responsibility of the State legislatures.

Likely, in line with procedures for filling vacancies after the election for the general election, at the party level the second place winner would get the nod. . . in this case, Bernie Sanders.

As for if she were to die after elected, the 20th Amendment, Section 3 addresses that.  It reads: “If, at the time fixed for the beginning of the term of the President, the President elect shall have died, the Vice President elect shall become President. If a President shall not have been chosen before the time fixed for the beginning of his term, or if the President elect shall have failed to qualify, then the Vice President elect shall act as President until the President shall have qualified.”

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