Would a presidential candidate be able to change his/her running mate after ballot papers have been printed?

For example, Independent Candidate Evan McMullin placed "Nathan Johnson" from California as his placeholder running mate mistakenly. However, some states already have the ballot papers printed, thus the name he used as a placeholder will appear on the ballots.

According to an article by the Politico, it quoted an official from Utah saying that changing it now isn't allowed:

“The clerks will begin printing the ballots now, so there is no way to change it. Yes, Johnson is the VP,” Mark Thomas, director of elections in the Utah lieutenant governor’s office, said after his office finished certifying the state’s ballot last week.

Can a presidential candidate place different running mates for different states? If so, who will be the Vice President if elected?

The same article also states that he can place a different running mate in other states:

The good news for McMullin is that, even if Johnson’s name on the ballot is permanent in eight states, he can still put a different name on his upcoming applications for other state ballots. And in the one-in-a-million scenario in which McMullin wins the White House, he would be able to have the new person sworn in as his running mate.

Article by Politico: http://www.politico.com/story/2016/09/evan-mcmullin-running-mate-227803

Update: Evan McMullin has chosen Mindy Finn as his running mate, so what would happen to 'Nathan Johnson' who is still on the ballot?


The US presidential election is not a direct popular vote. Instead the states each select a number of individuals to a hypothetical Electoral college. These individuals , commonly termed electors, go on cast votes for a choice for President and Vice President (as separate ballots). So strictly there is nothing to force all states to use the same pairings of candidates. Different states have different levels of enforcement as to whether their electors are forced to vote for the candidates as named on the state ballots, and while most assign all electors to the ticket which came first in the state, a couple divide electors by district. You should note that these rules regarding 'faithless electors' haven't been well tested in law.

When calculating who is the victor in the two elector votes, the rules (described in the 12th amendment to the US constitution) are that if a candidate has an absolute majority in that election they win, otherwise the House of Representatives picks the President from the top three candidates, and the Senate does the same from the top two for Vice President. In principle this could mean that the kind of split ticketing you are asking about could lead to the election of a President and Vice President from different parties.

  • Thanks for your detailed answer! But I was asking if a presidential candidate can have different running mates in different states? What would happen if the ticket wins a majority? One example is McMullin, as some states would have the ticket McMullin/Johnson while others will have the ticket McMullin/Finn, so who will become Vice-President if he wins 270 electoral votes? – Panda Oct 8 '16 at 2:22
  • This is basically repeating my answer, but there is no federal law to prevent a presidential candidate from naming a different VP on every state ballot he appears on. However in some states parties using primaries have their winning pairing selection appear automatically. – origimbo Oct 8 '16 at 3:28
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    Taking a concrete example in which Mcmullin won 270 electoral votes to Jill Stein's 268, with only the Utah ballot naming McMullin/Johnson then the votes in the VP electoral college would be Bakara 269, Finn 264, Johnson 6. No candidate has an absolute majority, so per the 12th amendment the Senate picks from between Bakara and Finn. – origimbo Oct 8 '16 at 3:35
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    Oh, so electoral votes are cast to both the presidential candidate and the vice-presidential candidate separately. Initially, I thought that the electoral college only votes for the ticket. Thanks a lot! :) – Panda Oct 8 '16 at 3:38

In the 1896 election, William Jennings Bryan had two VP candidates, Arthur Sewall for the Democrats and Thomas Watson for the Populists. Bryan-Watson didn't carry any states, but Watson got 27 electoral votes.

Also note the opposite scenario in 1824 when four Democrats ran for President with none carrying the Electoral College while John C. Calhoun easily carried the Vice Presidency.

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