On Dec. 14, the Electoral College will cast its votes. Barring any unforeseen outrage, a majority will vote for Joe Biden, the popular vote winner in the general election, to sighs of relief. Many may conclude the creaky Electoral College works most of the time, and that any fixes are just too hard to worry about.
That would be a mistake.
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In the months leading up to Election Day, civil society organizations carried out an extraordinary effort to make sure people across the country knew what to expect. That laid the groundwork for the core messages that have dominated in recent days: Every vote needs to be counted; the system is not broken just because it is taking longer to determine the winner; and election officials are in charge and will get the job done.
News organizations have amplified these messages. They have impressively stepped up to the challenge of covering this complicated, highly contentious election. The result has been much more calm during an uncertain post-election period than might have been expected. A development that many feared could trigger chaos — President Trump unilaterally declaring victory — has been a bit like the proverbial barking dog ignored by the passing truck.
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One of the most talked-about questions of this incredibly fraught election has been whether President Trump will concede if defeated by Vice President Joe Biden. Trump has fueled this concern through unsubstantiated accusations of election fraud, remarkably irresponsible statements that probably rank among the most un-presidential actions in our history. But from a legal perspective, a Trump concession would be irrelevant to the completion of the election.
We've grown accustomed to a certain sequence of events in presidential elections. News organizations project one candidate to have an insurmountable lead. The losing candidate is the first to speak, acknowledging defeat and congratulating his opponent. The winner steps before a cheering crowd, effectively bringing the election to a close.
But, in fact, election laws don't require acceptance of results or depend on the loser's concession.
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