WASHINGTON — Candidates plan election night parties with hopes of delivering victory speeches, but when things don’t go their way, they’re instead expected to concede to the winning candidate with congratulations and an acceptance of the outcome.
While that often feels like the conclusion of an election, does a concession actually matter?
Does a losing candidate really have to concede?
A formal acceptance of loss isn’t required, but it is long-standing American tradition.
WHAT WE FOUND:
As election results continue to roll in, so do tweets and social media posts pushing back on the outcomes, and “do not concede” has been a trending since Monday night. The posts largely center around conspiracy theories and misinformation about how votes are being counted, especially in the Arizona governor’s race.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, a race is over when "election administrators complete their post-election activities and the election results are certified.”
Losing candidates may be able to petition for a recount or recanvass, or challenge the results, but the process for making results official doesn’t require any speeches.
"The candidate that loses a race says, 'I've lost and the opponent has won legitimately, and they have every right to take office," said Dr. Stephen Medvic, professor of government at Franklin And Marshall College. "If they don't do that it doesn't stop the winner from taking office. It's just that it's kind of a nice courtesy that says, 'We played fair, they won, I concede.'"
In recent years, Republicans and Democrats have delayed formal concessions, often blaming the election process for an “unfair” or “incorrect” result. The American Presidency Project dates the tradition back to William Jennings Bryan, sending a telegram to William McKinley accepting defeat in the 1896 election.