During the third and final presidential debates on October 19, Republican candidate Donald Trump suggested that he would not necessarily accept the results of the upcoming November 8 election. Since then, Republicans and Democrats alike have spoken out against Mr. Trump for expressing doubt in the validity of the U.S. election process, which many see as the cornerstone of our democracy itself.
This would not be the first time that the results of a U.S. presidential election have been challenged. The 2000 race between Vice President Al Gore and George W. Bush was so close in Florida that a recount was necessary, and the case went all the way to the Supreme Court (Bush v. Gore). Eventually, Bush was declared the winner in Florida by 537 votes (0.009% of votes cast), awarding him all of the state’s electoral votes and thus the election.
However, several important differences exist between the 2000 and 2016 presidential elections. In 2000, the vote was so close that a recount was required and automatic. If current projections are correct, it is very unlikely that the 2016 election will be as close. Mr. Trump seems to imply that he would challenge the election results even if Secretary Clinton’s victory is decisive. Furthermore, neither Bush nor Gore questioned the legitimacy of the electoral process itself, and the day after the Supreme Court ruled against him, Gore called Bush to concede the election, thereby preserving the peaceful transfer of power that is the hallmark of democracy. If Trump refuses to concede the election, he will be the only candidate in U.S. history who has done so.
So, based on what you have seen and heard on the news, you decide: Will Donald Trump refuse to concede the 2016 presidential election?
- Though many differences exist between the two situations, Bush v. Gore (2000) would provide a precedent for Trump to question election results and/or demand a ballot recount.
- Throughout his campaign, Mr. Trump has made repeated claims that the election is rigged against him. During the third debates, on a national stage, he said that he would need to see the election results before deciding whether or not to accept them. And at a rally in Ohio the day after the debate, he (jokingly?) told the crowd that he would accept the outcome of the election only if he is the winner.
- As Secretary Clinton noted in the debate, Mr. Trump has a history of complaining about his losses; in the past, he has claimed that the FBI, the courts, and even the results of the Daytime Emmy Awards have all been rigged against him.
- Thanks largely to Mr. Trump’s insistence on the possibility of voter fraud, over 40 percent of Americans have reported that they now believe a presidential election could be rigged. Furthermore, over two-thirds of Republicans believe that if Secretary Clinton wins the election, it will be because of fraud.
- It is likely that, if Mr. Trump refuses to concede the election, he would not have the support of his own party behind him. Even notable Republicans and Trump supporters such as Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio have refused to stand behind Trump’s allegations of voter fraud.
- It is possible that Mr. Trump does not really intend to challenge the election results, but rather is trying to drum up publicity for the rumored launch of a Trump television network if his presidential bid fails.
- Mr. Trump’s claims of voter fraud are impossible to prove. Multiple studies over many years have found very little instance of fraud; for example, a recent study from Loyola Law School found fraud in only 31 out of over a billion ballots cast. Furthermore, the U.S. voting system is decentralized, meaning that each state has its own rules and officials. To influence national election results, voter fraud would have to happen on an enormous scale across the entire country.