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On 2020-11-03, voters in U.S. states and the District of Columbia will vote for members of the electoral college (this is often called the Presidential Election). On 2020-12-14, those members will gather to elect the next President of the United States. See this timeline on Wikipedia.

What happens if members of the electoral college die or are otherwise incapacitated between their election and them voting for the next president? Are those electoral college votes simply lost, or is there a procedure to replace them, such that the number of electoral college votes for each candidate reflects the expectations based on the voting in each state and the District of Columbia on election day?

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It depends on the state's law, but as a general rule, the elector is replaced by a new elector supporting the same candidates. For example, Sec. 192.007 of the Texas Election Code allows the remaining electors to appoint a replacement elector by means of a majority vote:

  • (a) The electors meeting to vote for president and vice-president may appoint a replacement elector by a majority vote of the qualified electors present if:
    1. the vacancy occurred before presidential election day and a replacement was not chosen under Section 192.004 (Elector Candidate Vacancy);
    2. on or after presidential election day, an elector is declared ineligible or dies; or
    3. the vacancy is declared under Section 192.006 (Meeting of Electors)(c).
  • (b) The chair of the electors shall notify the secretary of state of the name and residence address of a replacement elector immediately on the replacement’s appointment.

This appears to be the most common approach, and is followed by states such as Alaska, California, Colorado & Connecticut.

In Florida, FL Stat § 103.021 (5) allows the state's governor to appoint another elector who swears an oath to support the same candidates as the deceased elector:

(5) When for any reason a person nominated or elected as a presidential elector is unable to serve because of death, incapacity, or otherwise, the Governor may appoint a person to fill such vacancy who possesses the qualifications required for the elector to have been nominated in the first instance. Such person shall file with the Governor an oath that he or she will support the same candidates for President and Vice President that the person who is unable to serve was committed to support.

In New Mexico, the governor also fills the vacancy, picking from a list of names provided by the state chairman of the deceased elector's party.

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  • 1
    The governor may appoint a replacement... he's apparently not required to do so! That seems like a really bad way of doing things to me. You shouldn't let the governor make that call. – Kevin Oct 3 '20 at 4:02
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    The whole election system in the USA is based on 19th century technology, and huge distances which involved long travel times back then, which makes it seem outdated in the eyes of people in other parts of the world. The 'may' in the rules may be because the travel time may have been too short to send a replacement. – Willeke Oct 3 '20 at 12:07
  • @Willeke: Details of the process are indeed based on 18th-century technology, but the use of the Electoral College was designed as it was not only to accommodate technological limitations, but also to balance the power of large and small states. Were it not for the Electoral College, nobody would bother campaigning in small states since a 2% swing in California would have a bigger effect than a 100% swing in Alaska, Vermont, or Wyoming. – supercat Oct 3 '20 at 16:55
  • @supercat, you can have the same values for election outcomes without having the Electoral College, by appointing a certain portion on the votes to a given area, but was not possible when the best communication method was sending people on horses. Most countries have adjusted to the better communication methods, the USA is not the only one that has not. – Willeke Oct 3 '20 at 17:00

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