Spanberger bill would establish process in the event of a presidential candidate’s death
Here’s one for you: what happens if a presidential candidate dies before an election is certified?
It’s a trick question. Right now, we wouldn’t know what would happen, because while Section 4 of the 20th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gives Congress the authority to enact legislation establishing rules for such a scenario, Congress has never exercised this authority.
Abigail Spanberger (D-VA-07) has introduced the Solving an Overlooked Loophole in Votes for Executives (SOLVE) Act, which would establish a panel of constitutional experts to recommend to Congress an appropriate process in case there is a death of a candidate in a contingent presidential or vice-presidential election.
The Constitution establishes that if no candidate wins a majority of the electoral votes for president, the U.S. House of Representatives selects the president from the top three electoral vote recipients in what’s called a contingent election. Unfortunately, the Constitution has no rules for what is to be done if a presidential candidate dies during a contingent election.
The SOLVE Act would help establish what the process should be if a presidential candidate in a contingent election dies before the U.S. House elects the president and the U.S. Senate elects the vice president.
“Our American democracy is a resilient and enduring symbol of continued progress. As we focus on strengthening our system of government by and for the people, we have an opportunity to take commonsense steps to start addressing several remaining constitutional grey areas — including during the period between a general election and the U.S. House electing the President,” said Spanberger. “That’s why I am working with both Democrats and Republicans to examine such areas of uncertainty. I am proud to co-lead the introduction of this bipartisan, bicameral legislation to help provide greater certainty within our electoral system and additional peace of mind for the American people.”
Spanberger led the introduction of the legislation in the U.S. House with Rodney Davis (R-IL-13). Companion legislation is led in the U.S. Senate by Rob Portman (R-OH) and Angus King (I-ME).
“This is an important question and it’s not one you want to rush the answer to if we ever find ourselves in this situation,” said Davis. “We want to be prepared and our bill would ensure a bipartisan process for determining how Congress would fulfill its constitutional duty under the 20th Amendment. I appreciate my colleagues’ bipartisan, bicameral leadership on this bill and I hope we can get it signed into law soon.”
“In the horrible event that a candidate passes away in a contingent presidential or vice-presidential election, it’s imperative that Congress has the necessary information and guidance on how to proceed. Congress should not attempt to write the rules in the midst of such a crisis, and with such clear partisan outcomes at stake,” said Portman. “Though unlikely, it is important to pass this legislation in order to establish a panel of experts and determine the best course of action to resolve this issue before a nightmare scenario occurs. I urge my colleagues in Congress to support this bipartisan bill.”
“America’s elections are the foundation of our system of government — and in order for the American people to have faith in this process, the rules have to be clear,” said King. “However, as of right now our system is unprepared for the unlikely tragedy of a candidate passing away in the midst of an contingent election, opening the door to uncertainty and likely partisan tumult. We should have apolitical experts’ input to create guidelines for such a worst-case scenario, and pray that these rules never need to come into use.”