What Happens When Two Political Parties Nominate the Same Candidate for President?
Sacramento, Calif. – The Trump/Pence ticket now has two party nominations in California, the Republicans’ and the American Independent Party’s. The ticket under both parties will appear on the same ballot line. This hasn’t happened since 1940 when the California GOP got together with the Townsend Party to nominate Wendell Willkie. Then both parties nominated a common slate of Presidential electors.
On August 13, 2016, at its Sacramento Convention, the American Independent Party of California nominated the same ticket as the California Republican Party. Alleging they could not nominate non-Republicans as presidential electors, the Republicans broke off negotiations on a common slate. However, there is no evidence of such a rule. How do you characterize that politely? I can’t so I won’t try.
The American Independent Party foresaw difficulties with two slates on a single line (as mandated for dual nominations by the California Elections Code), so they asked the 58 County Registrars of Voters (ROV’s) a number of questions about how the voting would be handled. These 58 ROV’s then asked California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, “How will Presidential and Vice Presidential electors be selected when more than one political party nominates the same candidate?”
“The [California] Elections Code does not address the manner in which electors for President and Vice President of the United States are selected in situations where more than one party nominates the same candidate. We will address this issue if/when appropriate. [Emphasis added]”
But what does that mean?
California election law says the ballot should state “Vote for one party” in the “masthead” of the Presidential ticket choices on the 2016 General Election ballot. Elsewhere, that same Code tells election officials to tell the voters that they are really voting for party slates of electors for President and Vice President nominated by a party and pledged to the party’s nominees. They don’t actually tellthe voter that, but the law says they should.
So what’s the problem?
When only one party nominates a Presidential ticket, then checking the box next to it means voting for all the members of the party slate pledged to that ticket. Hence the phrase “Vote for one party” in the masthead. But when there are two parties nominating the ticket, which slate does checking that box vote for?
If there is a joint slate, there is no problem. But if one party balks at cooperation, Houston we’ve got a problem! The problem is that there are apparently going to be two slates but just one box and no way of choosing between them. So, if Trump/Pence wins, there is no vote tally for either slate of electors, because there was no vote for either. What about both? Won’t that solve it? No, sadly not, since you can only have 55 electors, not 110.
Since no choice of elector slate is offered in a dual nomination, no votes for either slate is tallied if there are two slates. There is no problem if there is just one slate. So if there are two slates because of a lack of cooperation between the nominating parties, the Presidential Election in California is invalidated and the State gets no Electoral College vote—unless the legislature supplants the voters and appoints the Electoral College for the State itself, according to Title 3 US Code Chapter 1.