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Why Candidates Should NOT Concede Before All the Votes Are Counted

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Message Jody Holder
Ken Simpkins is a voter located in San Diego County, California. While the point of this letter is local, the issue is national. With many localities still needing to count tens of thousands of votes even eight days after the election, the question of conceding before all the votes are counted, and the process audited for accuracy, is an important one. It is even more important given that absentee and provisional voting is surpassing 50% of the vote in many locations, and the initial election night results are mostly results from electronic voting machines. What follows is Mr. Simpkins' response to an advocate of conceding. > Dear Prof. Jacobson: > I understand from your comment published in the North County Times today you question why a candidate for political office, in this case Francine Busby, should wait until all the votes are counted before conceding. I would like to offer you several reasons for waiting. Even before being elected, a candidate is a representative of other citizens, namely her supporters. Those citizen are entitled to respect. By valuing all their votes before conceding, Ms. Busby showed her supporters that she valued them. She also showed how she would govern if elected by placing the interests of citizens above her own. > > Aside from respecting her supporters, the facts on the ground gave her supporters good reason to ask that she not concede. At the time individuals were calling for Ms. Busby to concede, an exit poll showed a discrepancy in the canvass that offered concrete evidence that the vote spread would narrow. If the spread did not narrow, serious questions would be raised over the validity of the election. When the media and political pundits ignore these considerations, they fail to perform their proper roles which should be to investigate and educate. The NC Times seriously breached its duty by misreporting the results of the exit poll thereby feeding the fire of calls for a concession. The NC Times then buried the correction. > > Your question asking why Ms. Busby did not concede earlier, and the reporting by the media, reveals a fundamental problem with our political process. We do not ask competitors, like football teams, to gracefully concede when they are trailing by 21 points at the half. Giving up before all opportunities to win a game are exhausted is considered a lack of character and cowardice. Even when a team is up against the wall facing insurmountable odds, sometimes they come back and win 49-41. Sticking it out until the end in that case creates heros. Even when it's 41-0 with minutes to play and no chance of winning, we do not ask the losing team at the end of the game, "Why didn't you concede?" And, we don't call coaches "sore losers" because they challenge a call. So why do pundits and the media disparage political candidates for waiting until the election is over before pressuring those candidates into conceding? An election is over when officials certify it. We should be praising candidates who respect the election process. > > Whatever benefits are achieved by an election day concession are outweighed by the negative impact. In San Diego County, in particular, election results are inherently suspect because of the manner in which the elections are conducted given secret vote counting and other problems. Democracy is a system of checks and balances. Citizens who want to protect democracy by verifying elections provide an important check against abuses. Their efforts are undermined when candidates are pressured to concede before the verification is completed. > > My hope is that pundits and media start to recognize the importance of waiting until the canvass is complete and limit their roles to reporting the facts instead of creating news by speculating about why a candidate refuses to concede. In these circumstances, anyone calling for a concession may be suspect for trying to undermine the will of the people. > > Ken Simpkins
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Jody Holder is a California voting activist.
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