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  /  News   /  Here’s how the process to replace Biden works if he withdraws

Here’s how the process to replace Biden works if he withdraws

Amid rising pressure for President Biden to withdraw from the race, questions are looming over the mechanics of getting another Democrat on the ballot ahead of November. 

Democrats do have a path forward: The filing deadline for the party to get their presidential candidate on the ballot in most states hasn’t been met yet, and there are avenues within the party over how to choose a new candidate if need be.

Much of the chatter over Biden’s fate for now is speculation, as the president and his campaign maintain he is committed to running for another term. Still, some Democrats have expressed uncertainty over his electoral chances against Trump in November, while others have called for him to drop out immediately, injecting uncertainty into an already chaotic election cycle. 

Here’s what to know about the rules governing a new Democratic presidential pick:

How does the process work?

Typically, the Democratic presidential candidate is officially selected at the Democratic National Convention, but this year’s presidential nominating process is set to look a little different. 

Democrats are holding a virtual roll call in response to earlier concerns that the president wouldn’t be able to get his name on the November ballot in Ohio ahead of the state’s filing deadline. In Ohio, Democrats initially needed to submit the name of their candidate to the state 90 days before the election, which is Aug. 7 this year. That’s earlier than when the DNC begins, which kicks off Aug. 19.

It wasn’t the first time this year that Democrats had run into a filing deadline problem. In Alabama, the issue was settled quickly after the state agreed to change its filing deadline, while Washington state accepted a provisional certification. 

When Ohio Republican lawmakers initially deadlocked over a legislative solution, Democrats decided to instead hold a virtual roll call. (Ohio lawmakers later passed legislation after the party came up with their workaround solution, allowing Democrats to submit their candidate to the state by Sept. 1.)

But questions are looming of whether Biden will remain the Democratic nominee. 

It’s possible, but also highly unlikely, that delegates could choose someone other than the president during the virtual roll call. 

The vast majority of delegates have pledged, but are not bound, to choose Biden as their nominee. If over half of his delegates decided to choose another candidate that was not the president, the process would lead to further rounds of voting before a nominee is chosen, according to ABC News

According to the network, delegates’ choices would be recognized as “present” if they voted for someone other than Biden. If a delegate doesn’t vote at all, their vote isn’t included in the initial tally. Still, it’s extremely unlikely that delegates would make such a pronounced move like that with Biden in the race.

There are questions about how the process works, even among Democrats, should the president withdraw from the race before the virtual roll call is held. Delegates likely would not have to throw their support behind Vice President Kamala Harris, meaning there is the potential for what Rep. James Clyburn (R-S.C.) referred to as a “mini-primary” to play out among them as they weigh other possible candidates.

If Biden chooses to withdraw after the convention, DNC members could vote on a pick put forth by DNC Chair Jaime Harrison and  top party leadership, according to NBC News

What about making the ballot?

In most states, the filing deadline for Democrats to submit their presidential nominee for the general election ballot is not due for at least another few weeks, as most state filing deadlines take place between August and September, according to analysis of state rules compiled by The Hill. In some states, there is no deadline at all.

New Mexico offers an unexpected curveball because the state technically does not have a state filing deadline. Once the Democratic primary takes place, whoever wins the contest is automatically placed on the November ballot. 

Alabama, South Dakota, Montana, Oklahoma, Arkansas and California require the nominee before the DNC finishes on Aug. 22. However, they all have processes to accept provisional certifications by their deadline and then the official nominee after the convention finishes. 

Last week, the Heritage Foundation released a report saying they would file suits in Wisconsin, Nevada and Georgia to prevent a change on the general election ballot. However, officials from those states cast doubt on Heritage’s claims, saying that the state deadlines have not yet passed, allowing for a change to be made. 

The Campaign Legal Center voting rights counsel Valencia Richardson dismissed this lawsuit, calling it a “threat that is intended to and would serve to impede voter access and confusion,” adding that the threat was “baseless.” 

How likely is a Biden replacement actually? 

It remains to be seen whether Biden chooses to withdraw, or if any delegates move to support somebody else. While some members of the party, including incumbents, have been vocal about asking the president not to seek another term, most top Democratic governors, senators and House members have largely rallied behind him.

Ultimately, most observers agree that the outcome hinges on what Biden himself decides to do. And if the president does decide to exit the race, his successor will most likely be Harris, something that other party leaders, like Clyburn, have reaffirmed.

A new candidate at the top of the ballot would also raise fresh questions, including how he or she will perform with their base and among swing state voters. It also raises questions over whether Democrats who cast protest votes against Biden over his administration’s handling of the Israel-Hamas war see reason to come home to a different nominee.