Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump suggested Wednesday night that he might not accept the results of the November 8 presidential election – and that he would “look at it at the time.”
Some of Trump’s defenders compared his remarks to the aftermath of the 2000 presidential election, when challenges by Democratic nominee Al Gore to the results in Florida culminated in the Supreme Court’s controversial decision in Bush v. Gore. Critics blasted Trump for subverting perhaps the most basic principle of our democratic system – that election results, reflecting the will of the people, are sacred.
Here’s our legal explainer of how Trump – or Hillary Clinton – can try to challenge the election if they appear to be on the losing side at the end of election night:
Can a presidential candidate legally “contest” election results?
Yes, but not at the national level. US elections, even for president, are administered on a state-by-state basis. Every state has its own laws governing elections, including laws that allow (and, in some circumstances, require) that the vote be recounted if the preliminary results show a very close outcome in that state, regardless of what happens elsewhere. State laws also identify other exceptionally narrow circumstances in which challenges can be brought. And in any event, every state also has procedures for counting absentee and provisional ballots, many of which are counted after Election Day.