Breaking News
More () »

Losing candidates are not required to concede in an election

Challenges to election outcomes have undermined the long-standing tradition of accepting defeat and congratulating the winning opponent.

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?

RELATED: Election 2022: Updated results from across the country


Does a losing candidate really have to concede?



A formal acceptance of loss isn’t required, but it is long-standing American tradition.


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.

RELATED: Katie Hobbs wins Arizona governor’s race, flipping state for Dems

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.

RELATED: Dan Cox concedes in Maryland gubernatorial race against Wes Moore, slams Gov. Hogan

"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.'"

RELATED: President Trump vows 'never to concede' in speech at election protests

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.

WUSA9 is now on Roku and Amazon Fire TVs. Download the apps today for live newscasts and video on demand.

Download the WUSA9 app to get breaking news, weather and important stories at your fingertips.

Sign up for the Get Up DC newsletter: Your forecast. Your commute. Your news.
Sign up for the Capitol Breach email newsletter, delivering the latest breaking news and a roundup of the investigation into the Capitol Riots on January 6, 2021.

Before You Leave, Check This Out