Note: Originally published on Sept. 23.
What began with a few photographs has turned into a full-blown panic that Hillary Clinton may be suffering from anything from Parkinson’s to epilepsy to cancer. Numerous media outlets have questioned Clinton’s ability to lead the country for a full term. This frenzy reached its peak on Sept. 11 when Clinton was spotted stumbling from her daughter’s apartment after fainting at a memorial service. Clinton’s doctor released a statement later that day assuring the public that the presidential candidate had a bout of pneumonia and was recovering well. Donald Trump chimed in as recently as this weekend, claiming that Clinton “could be crazy” and lacks the fortitude to be president.
But what would actually happen if a presidential candidate became too sick to continue their campaign? We found out for you.
The Constitution itself provides no clear guidelines in this situation. Experts can only speculate on the procedure and offer up prospective solutions. Dr. Gibbs Knotts, the Department Chair for Political Science at the College of Charleston, commented that, right now, any vacancies in either party would be filled by the National Committees.
The Democratic National Committee (DNC) charter confirms this in Article Two, Section One where it states that the DNC possesses the power to “[fill] vacancies in the nominations for the office of the President and Vice President.” Should a vacancy open, a meeting must be called by the chairperson, following all regular meeting rules and regulations, and a majority of DNC members must be present without a voting proxy. The DNC, however, gives no special consideration to the vice president and previous Democratic candidates and does not detail any regulations on who can be considered as a replacement. Bernie Sanders, Tim Kaine and even Joe Biden would all be valid replacements.
The Republican National Committee (RNC)’s charter calls for a similar action plan. Rule Number Nine of the RNC covers filling vacancies in nominations, stating that should a presidential candidate be indisposed, the chairperson would be given five days to either call a special meeting for RNC members to revote or reconvene the entire national convention for a revote. Like the DNC, the Republican National Committee details no rules on who can be considered to fill the vacancy, meaning Mike Pence cannot get special treatment.
However, this entire process remains speculative and could turn out to be much more complicated.
“It becomes more complicated the closer we get to the election once ballots are printed, mailed out, early voting starts,” said Dr. Knotts. The closer we are to election day, the messier and more unorganized the process can become. The logistics and resources needed to completely restructure the campaign is an unheard-of feat, and could conflict with certain state laws.
The Hillary Clinton health scandal, no matter how outlandish, raises concerns about voting regulations that ought to be ironed out sooner rather than later.