Accepting Election Results: An Important Tradition

by Catherine Arjet

opinions editor

During the third presidential debate the moderator, Chris Wallace, asked Donald Trump what should have been a simple and easy question. He asked: “Do you make the same commitment [as Hillary Clinton] that you will absolutely accept the results of this election?” However, instead of agreeing to continue America’s tradition of peaceful transference of power, Trump responded, “I will look at it at the time.”

This is deeply worrying and not an isolated incident. With such a divisive election, many feel that the candidate they support is the only acceptable choice for this country, and having the other candidate as president would be worse than undermining the democratic principles and practices that govern our nation. In Washington state, a member of the electoral college is refusing to vote for Clinton even if she wins his state. For those who don’t know, the Electoral College is the group of 538 people who choose our next president. Every member is expected (and in some states legally bound) to vote for the candidate that one their state. For example, Mississippi has six Electoral College members who will all vote for whichever candidate wins Mississippi. However, if Clinton wins Washington she will only receive 11 of the 12 electoral votes the state carries. While a faithless elector (the name for these Electoral College members who do not vote for the person their state elected) has never swayed an election, many worry that in a race as polarizing as this one, multiple electors could abandon the people they represent, and that could sway the election.

Of course, most of the people in this country do not hold as much power as either an Electoral College member or Trump; however, everyday people also need to respect our nation’s laws and regulations and accept whichever candidate we elect Tuesday. One thing that separates The United States from other countries with more precarious and bloody power structures is the almost absolute certainty that, come January 20 and the presidential inauguration, the vast majority of Americans will recognize whichever candidate wins the election as their new president, even if they don’t like him or her. If we either demand intervention or suggest without evidence that the election is rigged, we undermine the democratic system we have in place.

Most of us don’t really remember it because we were in preschooler at the time, but in 2000 America’s faith in the system was tested when Al Gore won the popular vote but George W. Bush won the Electoral College. Bush won Florida — and thus the Electoral College — by less than .01%  and many claim that this was due to a defect in the paper voting system Florida used which caused over 700,000 ballots not to be counted by the machines. Since Bush won by so little, these easily could have tipped the election. The election was not settled until December 12th, over a month after the election. Still we all accepted George Bush as our president. Many of us did so grudgingly and made changes to the voting system (like requiring all voting machines to be digital) so that this would never happen again, but we accepted him. I’m asking you to accept our next president, whoever it may be, this January as well.

I’m not trying to say that this system is perfect, that we shouldn’t call for an official’s impeachment if they do something to warrant it or that we should let potentially rigged elections slide. However, by refusing to acknowledge the will of the people (even if we disagree with it and suspect it will cause harm), we endanger the validity of this and all future elections.

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