With recent developments in the US Presidential race, a lot many questions are being asked about the eligibility criteria of the President. With multiple cases against Donald Trump, it makes us wonder if a convicted individual can run for the US President. And what happens if an individual in prison wins the Presidential election?
Surely, the people who wrote the constitution thought deeply about all the possible scenarios that can emerge. But it seems that nobody imagined things like a convicted individual running for the President. To understand whether or not a presidential candidate can contest election from prison, here are some important things to understand.
What does the constitution say about convicted presidential candidates?
As per the constitution, there is no law that bars convicted individuals from fighting the presidential election. Probably, the creators of the constitution never thought about such rare occurrences. The eligibility criteria for the US President are pretty basic. It includes natural born citizens, age of at least 35 years and living in the country for a minimum of 14 years.
There is no mention that criminal record or conviction can bar individuals from contesting presidential elections. So, the broad answer is that even a convicted individual in prison can contest the presidential election.
What about the 14th Amendment?
Some legal scholars say that a convicted individual can be barred from running for president under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment. As per this section, an individual who has engaged in insurrection or rebellion is prohibited from holding public office. The Congress can certainly take a united stand against a convicted individual. But the Congress is hardly united, which will make it extremely hard to come to a unanimous decision. Even such decisions can be challenged in the Court.
Can a convicted presidential candidate vote?
This will depend on the state from where the presidential candidate is registered. For example, convicted people in Florida are not allowed to cast their vote. They can vote only after completing their full prison time and paying all fines and fees. On the other end, there are states like New York that allow voting rights to people on parole on probation.
What happens if a convicted individual wins the presidential election from prison?
This could be one of the biggest political crises to have emerged in the history of the United States. There are no clear answers. Technically, it is possible to win the presidential election while in prison. The constitution does not have any provisions for such developments.
There are some possibilities such as the president can demand to be released from prison. He can say that the imprisonment is preventing him from doing his duties as a president. If there are any federal cases, the convicted president can issue a self-pardon. However, if there are any state cases, they will continue. Eventually, such matters will be decided in the court of law.