Let's suppose the nominating convention has taken place, and then either the Republican or Democrat candidate is charged with some serious unlawful act (presumably they cannot be impeached at this point)?

Would the other candidate simply be awarded victory, or could the party of the charged candidate suspend his/her nomination and nominate a different person?

Would the vice-presidential running mate automatically take over?

Presumably the arraigned candidate could not continue to stand, could they?

By criminal matters, I am thinking of something like major tax fraud, corruption, or association with organised crime.

  • 9
    In the U.S. people are innocent until proven guilty. Legally I know of no issue with charges being filed against a candidate. There's certainly be political party politics and public scandal issues to deal with though.
    – user1530
    Commented Mar 10, 2016 at 3:47
  • Were the alleged criminal acts committed in the US? Are the charges laid in the US?
    – DJohnM
    Commented Mar 10, 2016 at 8:07
  • 4
    @blip Presumption of innocence is clearly paramount as far as the individual is concerned. But my question is whether the party which nominates a candidate has an option to withdraw their nomination if the candidate becomes too deeply embroiled in defending criminal litigation?
    – WS2
    Commented Mar 10, 2016 at 9:08
  • @DJohnM It is a hypothetical question which I am raising.
    – WS2
    Commented Mar 10, 2016 at 9:10

2 Answers 2


Being arraigned/accused of crime has nothing to do with standing for election. Only being on the ballot and satisfying the rules is. The rules are per-state and called "Ballot Access"

Each U.S. State has its own ballot access laws to determine who may appear on ballots. According to the Elections Clause in Article I, Section 4, of the United States Constitution, the authority to regulate the time, place, and manner of federal elections is up to each State, unless Congress legislates otherwise.

From the point of view of Federal Government, you get on the ballot by either being nominated by a party (the party is a private organization and can nominate anyone they want); or fulfilling other ballot access requirement (typically, gathering a required minimal number of signatures); or being a non-ballot write-in candidate.

TL;DR: Short of criminal conviction (and may be even not that), the only way a party candidate on the ballot can be replaced is by having the party - in that specific state - choose a different candidate, in time before the deadline to determine ballot contents (which again depends on a state).

How the parties determine their ballot candidate is 100% outside the purvue of Federal government, parties being private organizations. They have their own internal rules, and can set and change those rules as they see fit, as per their own governance structures.

Notably, if the party's governance structure prevents willy-nilly assigning anyone who didn't win the primary, there's nothing they can do.

I don't have a Presidential level example, but in the Senate elections, we have 2008 case of Ted Stevens in Alaska, who was under criminal investigation and convicted and STILL running for election from "R" side.

  • 1
    Even with criminal conviction, you can probably still stand unless the conviction was for conduct amounting to treason. Assuming it's anything like the rules for members of Congress, the qualifications in the Constitution are an exclusive list and cannot be added to except by amendment.
    – cpast
    Commented Mar 11, 2016 at 15:50
  • @cpast - yep, see my Stevens example. He was convicted BEFORE the election.
    – user4012
    Commented Mar 12, 2016 at 22:40
  • But if an elected official is convicted of a crime involving a prison sentence, do they not have to vacate the elected office? So what if it happens before they have been sworn in? In Britain a Member of Parliament convicted of an offence involving more than a one-year sentence automatically loses his seat, and a by-election is held.
    – WS2
    Commented Nov 10, 2016 at 14:58
  • @WS2: It's the other way around here. He comes out of prison and is seated in congress.
    – Joshua
    Commented Dec 8, 2017 at 2:40
  • The political parties do not have the power to replace candidates willy-nilly, regardless of what their rules say, unless state law gives them that power. And even if a state does give them that power, there will always be some deadline after which it may no longer be exercised. Furthermore, ballot laws will be different from one state to another. The first paragraph after the quotation is incorrect because it is overly specific. It should say that from the point of view of the federal government, you get on the ballot by fulfilling the requirements of one or more states.
    – phoog
    Commented Apr 5, 2019 at 4:38

So I want to clarify, the conventions for both parties (Let's use fictional parties to mask any partisan elements: One party shall be named the Stupid Party and the other is the Evil Party... feel free to have them line up with either real party you see fit to deserve that alignment) but the elections are months away? This would put the date as somewhere between early July and the First Tuesday of the First Monday in November. The charged candidate (Evil Party) is still innocent of the crime until a jury convicts him. He can still run while he is charged... heck, he can even be elected with charges pending (At this point, there's some serious debate if you can have the trial of the President while he is in office). The Stupid Party Nominee would be... well, an idiot if they did not milk this turn of events for all it's worth, so it's very unlikely that the Evil Party Nominee could be, in order, A) Nominated, B) Charged with a serious crime C) Tried and Convicted of aforementioned serious crime and D) all before election day and a win for Evil Party Nominee. Specifically, the trial of a major party candidate would take months of pre-trial motions alone, to say nothing of the jury selection which is gonna have a fun time finding jurors impartial enough to fairly judge an individual who is running for President... good luck finding 12 recluses with no outside forms of communication and no political affiliations.

So in all likelihood, if Evil Party Candidate gets elected, they will likely be inaugurated and then immediately Congress will start serious impeachment discussions. At this point, upon some removal of the President from office by impeachment or arrest, the Vice President becomes President as the President clearly cannot discharge his duties.

Prior to the conventions, it depends on how presumptive the front runner is, but both parties have internal mechanisms to handle a situation where the nominee is not clearly determined by the votes.

  • US Presidents are not removed from office by arrest, conviction or imprisonment. The only mechanisms for removing a president from office are impeachment, mental or physical incapacitation validated by the cabinet and congress, or death. Commented Feb 10 at 16:17

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .