U.S. Elections 101 FAQs: Frequently-Asked Questions
Could ex-Pres.be Vice Pres.?
By TOM CURRY
National affairs writer
updated 11:05 a.m. PT, Wed., Feb. 20, 2008
Q. “IS THE Constitution written in a way that a former two-term president could be elected as vice president? President Bill Clinton running on the same ticket with? Also if this were a possibility and something prevented her from serving out her full term, he then would become president for the third time. Has this ever happened, and if so, when?”
No, it has never happened.
Theto the Constitution says the presidential electors “shall meet in their respective states, and vote by ballot for President and Vice-President, one of whom, at least, shall not be an inhabitant of the same state with themselves….”
The effect of this provision is that a presidential candidate and his or her running mate must reside in different states.
and her husband are both residents of the same state. A Clinton-Clinton ticket would risk forfeiting all of ’s 31 electoral votes. (He could quickly re-locate to – only 12 miles from the Clintons’ home in , N.Y., but that would seem a bit fishy, wouldn’t it?)
If elected president, Hillary Clinton could in theory appointto serve as vice president – but only if there were a vacancy in the office of vice president.
Theto the Constitution says, “Whenever there is a vacancy in the office of the Vice President, the President shall nominate a Vice President who shall take office upon confirmation by a majority vote of both Houses of Congress.”
It seems unlikely that she’d ever appointto fill such a vacancy, or that the House and Senate would confirm him.
Q. “What would happen if one of the candidates died just days before the election?”
If the presidential candidate who died were the Democrat, then thewould meet to choose a replacement; if the presidential candidate were the Republican, the would meet to choose a replacement.
Q. “Who becomes president if the president-elect dies before Inauguration Day? Has this ever happened before?”
No, it has not happened. If the president-elect died, theto the Constitution says “the Vice President elect shall become President.”
Q. “Why can’t the president be elected by popular vote? Why is thestill considered constitutional when it clearly undermines what a democracy stands for?”
Theis “considered constitutional” because it is constitutional.
The Constitution itself establishes the system of electors that we use. See Article II, section 1, Clause 2, of the Constitution: “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress….”
Changing this system would require an amendment to the Constitution. It takes the agreement of three-quarters of the states to do that.
And the states with smaller populations (, , , etc.) are unlikely to agree to such an amendment, since the system established by the Constitution gives them a bigger voice in electing a president than they’d have if election through a popular vote were used.
Q. “Ifdoes not get enough delegates to become the Democratic candidate, yet has won the most popular votes, could he turn independent and run with say, Mayor Bloomberg of ? How do independents get registered to run for president and do they need electoral votes?”
If Obama failed to win the Democratic nomination, in theory he could try to run as an independent. But it would be difficult for him to get on the ballots in all 50 states.
Some state laws make it hard for an independent candidate to get a spot on the ballot. And some states have relatively early deadlines for qualifying to get on the ballot.
In, for instance, someone trying to get on the ballot as an independent presidential candidate would need to collect 21,500 signatures by June 4, a point at which the Democratic nomination may still be unresolved.
An independent would need to have slates of electors in all or most of the 50 state in order to get any electoral votes.
Q. “How is it that the media as well as other government officials know who voted for which candidate as it relates to race, gender, religion, age, etc. Is each ballot coded?”
No, ballots are not color coded.
What news organizations do is to interview a sample of voters who agree to talk about their vote, their income, their religion, and other matters as they leave the voting place.
In theDemocratic primary on Jan. 8, for instance, a total of 285,541 people cast ballots. The exit poll done by the TV networks interviewed 1,955 of them – about seven-tenths of one percent of the total. If the sample is done correctly, it provides an estimate of what percentage of women, for instance, voted in the New Hampshire primary for .
Q. “Why are elections always held on Tuesday?”
Some primary elections, such as’s, are held on a Saturday, not on a Tuesday.
But the November presidential election is by federal law held on a Tuesday.
According to the Congressional Research Service, in 1845, Congress set a uniform time for holding presidential elections, specifying the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November every fourth year.
“Tuesday was chosen partly because it gave a full day’s travel time between Sunday (often strictly observed as a day of rest) and voting day,” said the Research Service. “This was considered necessary when travel was either on foot or by horse, and the only polling place in most rural areas was at the county seat. The choice of Tuesday after the first Monday prevented elections from falling on the first day of the month, which was often reserved for court business at the county seat.”