What Happens If a Presidential Candidate Refuses to Concede?

In the last presidential debate, Donald Trump suggested that if he lost, hemight disagree with the election results and not give in to Hillary Clinton. But is a concession really required to complete an election?

In one word: no . No concession is required from the losing candidate for the winning candidate to take office. On the contrary, it is simply a political norm that closes both campaigns. The concession is nothing more than a means to the peaceful end of many months (and often, as in this case, fierce) campaign. However, this does not mean that concessions are not important. Failure to make a concession speech can have serious consequences.

Historically, when a candidate loses, they graciously accept the results, call their opponent privately, and then publicly admit their loss.

This process began in 1860 , when Stephen Douglas publicly admitted defeat to Abraham Lincoln in a speech that Al Gore subsequently quoted in 2000 . As for personal contact with the winner, the first to do this was William Jennings Bryan, who, after being defeated by William McKinley in 1896, sent him a telegram . The first to give both public and private concession speeches was Al Smith, who lost to Herbert Hoover in 1928.

In American history, no major contemporary presidential candidate has refused to give in after defeat. The closest we’ve seen in recent history was in 2000, when Al Gore called George W. Bush to concede after the media named Florida instead of Bush, but then called Bush back to withdraw the concession after it became clearly the voices in Florida were closer. what it looked like initially. In the end, 36 days later, after the Supreme Court ruled against the recount , Gore admitted.

Perhaps the most violent election in history took place in 1876 between Rutherford B. Hayes and Samuel Tilden. Here 20 electoral votes were contested in four states: Florida, Louisiana, South Carolina and Oregon. Each party was convinced of its victory. In the end, instead of a massive recount, the two candidates agreed to the Compromise of 1877 , when Hayes was awarded the White House in exchange for agreeing to withdraw troops from the former allied states. Despite the fact that the election was contested, Tilden ultimately conceded.

There were other quirks in the process as well. Charles Evans Hughes reportedly waited a couple of weeks before sending his assignment to Woodrow Wilson. It took James Blaine two weeks to concede to Grover Cleveland because Blaine waited for the official full vote count before admitting defeat. Nixon decided to wait until the next morning to concede to Kennedy , although most people called an election. Nixon, of course, had a history of annoyance with the press with his “You No More Nixon ” concession speech after he lost the governor’s race in California in 1962. In the election of the year, Barry Goldwater lost to Lyndon Johnson after a crushing defeat in 1964 , but vowed to continue fighting Johnson.

Even if you give in, you don’t have to do it well.

Coming back to today, there are a few things to keep in mind about Trump’s potential refusal to acknowledge the election results. Elections are technically not over until all votes have been confirmed and the Electoral College meets to vote on the Monday after the second Wednesday of December (19th place this year). From his statements, it is possible that Trump will not give in until that happens, just to prove his point.

Of course, things change if there is reason to believe that the election results were falsified as a result of fraud or other irregularities. In this case, the burden of proof rests with the prosecutor to support allegations of fraud and sufficient allegations to influence the outcome of an election. 43 states allow recounts . If Trump or any other candidate has evidence of fraud, a lawsuit or forced re-voting is an option in states where voting is close.

Even if Trump chooses not to accept the election results or publicly concede, others can simply do so on his behalf. According to Edward Foley , law professor and author of Battling the Ballots: A History of Controversial US Elections , House Speaker Paul Ryan or Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will likely be the ones to do so. There is a reasonable chance that most GOP members will follow suit and effectively end the fraud without a word to Trump.

Of course, it’s not always that easy. While it is legally and politically irrelevant whether Trump accepts his loss, there is potential for repercussions if his supporters follow suit, and protests and demonstrations are the most likely move. This situation cannot be predicted at this time, but it is still worth considering as we approach Election Day.


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