Republican Party leaders are under mounting pressure to dump Donald Trump as the GOP’s 2016 presidential nominee. The backlash is building after Trump’s vulgar comments about forcefully grabbing and kissing women were released on Friday.
But the Republican National Committee (RNC) is in a bind: Its own rules, along with state election laws, make it extremely unlikely that the real estate mogul and reality TV star-turned-politician will be bumped from the November ballot.
Even if Trump quits the race on his own, voters may still face the option of ticking off his name when they visit the polls in just 33 days.
Source tells me RNC officials are meeting in DC to discuss what options the party has going forward in case Trump isn’t nominee.
— Yamiche Alcindor (@Yamiche) October 8, 2016
"You’re talking about piling on one complication after the other," Jeffrey Berry, an American politics professor at Tufts University, told Mashable.
"This is uncharted territory," he said.
Here are the two main reasons why Trump will probably remain the Republican party’s nominee even as the RNC reportedly halts some of its efforts to help get Trump elected.
1. Republican rules
The RNC’s Rule No. 9 explains that members can only replace a nominee if a vacancy is created due to "death, declination, or otherwise," not simply because the committee changed its mind after the nomination.
Rule No. 12 would, in theory, allow the RNC to amend Rule No. 9 and dump Trump, but such a task would be tricky to pull off. Amendments require a three-fourths majority vote of the RNC’s entire membership and only take effect 30 days after adoption,
Josh Putnam, a political science lecturer at the University of Georgia, said on Twitter that Republicans simply don’t have enough time on their side.
10 days lead time to consider proposed rules change. That leaves 20 days to sell the new guy and deal w/any inevitable backlash. #steepodds
— Josh Putnam (@FHQ) October 8, 2016
If the RNC did manage to amend the rule in time to rescind the nomination, such a maneuver would likely face legal challenges, Berry said.
"They’re doing it ex post facto. How do you write a law that revokes something that happened earlier?" he said in a phone interview.
Given how soon the elections are, and with the potential legal fallout, "You’re talking about a narrative that becomes a coup d’état, and I think that’s difficult for them," he added.
2. State election laws
America’s 50 nifty states have their own rules and deadlines that guide how and when candidates are listed on the ballot.
In states with early and absentee voting, ballots already list Trump as the Republican party candidate. State officials are unlikely to revise or void those ballots in the remarkable (and long shot) event that the RNC does ditch Trump and nominate another candidate.
"A state would have to print two versions of the ballot with different names on them, and that’s legally untenable," Berry said. "The election is already underway."
Image: Sean Krajacic/The Kenosha News via AP
Voters make their marks during the first day of early voting in Kenosha, Wisconsin, Oct. 3, 2016.
In a handful of states, including Florida, Georgia and North Carolina, citizens have already cast their votes for the next U.S. president.
More than 35,300 Republican voters, nearly 59,000 Democrats and over 22,300 Independents already checked their respective boxes on ballots bearing the name "Donald Trump," according to the U.S. Election Project. Millions more voters have already requested or received absentee ballots.
This is also why Trump’s name could still appear on the November ballot even if he does oblige his critics and quit the race — another improbable scenario.
In the hypothetical event that Trump quits the race, his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, could step up as the Republican party’s candidate. Then the RNC and state officials could work to educate voters so that they knew a vote for Trump, whose name would still appear on the ballot, would count toward Pence, whose name would appear as the vice presidential candidate.
That’s exactly what many elected leaders, including Colorado Senator Cory Gardner, urged on Saturday.
If Donald Trump wishes to defeat Hillary Clinton, he should do the only thing that will allow us to do so – step aside. My full statement: pic.twitter.com/hadKP4gIrr
— Cory Gardner (@CoryGardner) October 8, 2016
Trump told the Wall Street Journal on Saturday that there is "zero chance I’ll quit." He later tweeted, in shouty caps, "I WILL NEVER DROP OUT OF THE RACE."