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Tuesday, 14 November, 2000, 08:52 GMT
'Royal succession' for president
thurmond
Out of the shadows: Strom Thurmond behind ex-president Gerald Ford
With the battle for the presidency in danger of ending in stalemate, the BBC's Paul Reynolds examines the options ahead.

hastert
Dennis Hastert: First in line
It is theoretically possible that a 98-year-old senator from South Carolina could become president at the end of this constitutional maze.

But it's also theoretically possible that the Earth will be destroyed by a giant meteor.

Strom Thurmond would only get his chance if nobody was elected president by the time Bill Clinton leaves office on 20 January.


There is a long list of government officials in the line of succession, like some royal family in Europe

As the president pro tempore of the Senate, Thurmond is second in line to take over if there is no president.

First in line is the Speaker of the House of Representatives, currently Dennis Hastert, a Republican and former school wrestling coach.

There is a long list of government officials in the line of succession, like some royal family in Europe.

Third on the list is Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. This is a bit awkward as the president must be American born and Mrs Albright is not.

No arguments

The comes the secretaries of treasury and defence, the attorney general and so on down the secretary of veterans' affairs.

The people who designed all this were making sure there would be no arguments.

But that's way down the road. Before then the following procedure will be followed.

On 18 December, the Monday following the second Wednesday of December, members of the electoral college in each state meet in their state capitals to cast their vote for the president and vice-president.

albright
Madeleine Albright: Ruled out
These electors follow the popular vote for the presidential candidate in each state, with winner taking all, except in Maine and Nebraska.

The electors are committed to voting for their candidate and in some states must do so by law, but not in all.

In West Virginia in 1988, one elector who did not agree with the system, switched her votes between presidential and vice-presidential candidates just to make a point.

At 1300 on 6 January in the House of Representatives, the votes of the electoral college are opened and read.

The candidate winning most votes in the college wins the election, provided it is an absolute majority.

Since there are only two candidates and there is unlikely to be a tie, there should be a result.

But a tie is possible if a rogue electoral college voter or two changes side, especially if he or she feels that the popular vote should be followed.

If neither gets an absolute majority for some reason, the House of Representatives selects the president, with each state delegation getting one vote, which means that Mr Bush should win since the Republicans have more delegations.

Mr Bush, incidentally, might not be selected by the Texas delegation, which is Democratic.

If you can follow that, you can realise how remote the chances of Strom Thurmond becoming president are.

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See also:

13 Nov 00 | Americas
US elections: Your suggestions
10 Nov 00 | Americas
US papers watch and worry
13 Nov 00 | Americas
Q and A: What's taking so long?
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