New Times,
New Thinking.

  1. Election 2024
9 November 2016

If he loses, can Donald Trump contest the US election result?

The Republican presidential candidate has refused to confirm he would accept a Hillary Clinton win. But does he have to?

By Stephanie Boland

One of the most ridiculous things Donald Trump has said during his presidential campaign – leaving aside that thing about the wall and, well, almost everything he’s said about women – is that he might not accept the result of the vote.

During the final presidential debate, late last month, Trump refused to confirm whether he would concede the debate, following claims the election has been “rigged” against him.

“I will keep you in suspense,” he told audiences, explaining that he would “look at it at the time”.

His comments the next day cleared things up a little – by Trump standards. Speaking at a rally in Ohio, definitely adult man Donald Trump confirmed he would accept the result…if he wins.

But if he loses, could he contest the result?

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU

Contesting results

A candidate can contest the results of a presidential election – but only at a state level.

Rather than call the whole thing illegitimate, Trump’s attempt at recourse could include challenging the vote in key, battleground states, like Nevada, Florida, Pennsylvania and possibly Michigan.

The laws that dictate how such challenges work are set on a state-by-state basis. They mostly only come in to play when there’s a narrow margin in the results. (If you’re bored, or, as my colleague Stephen might have it, “fascinated” with the “very important democratic process”, there’s a searchable database of state laws here.)

Of course, because of the electoral college system, we would expect Trump to aim to challenge a tight result in a state with a large number of electoral college votes; like Florida in 2000.

And if he loses that challenge?

Trump could suggest there’s some sort of federal constitution violation.

Sounds exciting

Super exciting! Mostly because it’s super rare.

Usually, any dispute over process is resolved at a state level. The US Congress meets on 6 January in a joint session to count the election votes, anyway, but it would also be up to them to settle any complaint that escalates above the state in question’s supreme court. (Florida in 2000 is again a rare case.)

What if Trump just whines like a massive baby?

He’s entitled to that. He doesn’t have to accept the result on election night – it’s preliminary at that stage, anyway – and can make as many histrionic, repetitive speeches as he wishes.

And after that?

Well, if Clinton wins, and has that win ratified by Congress, and Trump continues to attempt a legal challenge, we’re in uncharted waters.

If Clinton wins and has it ratified by Congress, and Trump continues to hoot away madly on Twitter for all 2017 – refuses to emotionally accept the result, if you will – well, what else did we really expect?

Content from our partners
"Heat or eat": how to help millions in fuel poverty
We need an urgent review of UK pensions
The future of private credit