What Happens If Trump Doesn’t Accept The Results of the 2020 Election?

Olivia Harvey
·3 min read

Getty Images, Chip Somodevilla / Staff

Though it may be a matter of days until a winner is declared in the 2020 presidential election, President Trump began sowing the seeds of a non-peaceful transition of power weeks before Election Day yesterday, November 3rd. With the race between Trump and Former Vice President Joe Biden currently too close to call as mail-in ballots continue to be counted across the U.S., many Americans are nervous about Trump's threat to go down with the ship—what would happen if Trump loses but refuses to accept the results?

Unfortunately, there's no cut and dry answer for this question. The 20th Amendment in the U.S. Constitution confirms that if Trump loses to Biden—no matter how large or small the margin—his term will officially end on January 20th, 2021 at noon. But, what if Trump believes the election was "rigged," as he stated at an August rally in Oshkosh, Wisconsin—"The only way they’re going to win is that way," Trump said of the Democratic party. "And we can’t let that happen." Can he challenge the results?

Well, technically, he already has. After falsely declaring a win early this morning, Trump declared that he wanted "all voting to stop" permanently so that he could hang on to his predicted voting-day lead, despite many states temporarily halting mail-in ballot counting for the day.

Of the continuation of counting ballots the days following the election, Trump said, "This is a major fraud on our nation."

Luckily, Trump cannot just stop votes from coming in, and any mail-in ballot that is postmarked on or before Election Day is valid and will be counted. Therefore, Trump has said he may take the election results to the Supreme Court, which, during his term, he has packed with conservative justices.

However, again, Trump cannot simply take this issue to the Supreme Court. If he wishes to challenges the results, or claims the election was "rigged," he'll have to start locally.

According to The Guardian, Trump and/or Republican party lawyers would first have to challenge "the way an election was conducted locally" and attempt to have votes discarded for one reason or another. These cases would be handled by state courts before potentially being ushered up into the Supreme Court. This scenario happened in 2000 during the George Bush vs. Al Gore election when Bush ultimately won the election after winning court cases in Florida that challenged results—though the Supreme Court justices noted that this procedure should never be used as precedent after the fact.

Trump would be the first president in U.S. history to not accept the results of an election, LiveScience reports. And if he challenges the results to no avail and Biden is sworn in by literally anyone on January 20th at noon, Trump will be escorted out of the White House by Biden's Secret Service, says Robert Shapiro, a professor and the former acting director of Columbia University's Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy.

At that point, it's up to our newly elected and reelected officials to keep the peace and prevent usurpation of power.

If Biden wins the election by a landslide, it will be harder for Trump to challenge the results. We should only be concerned if Biden wins by a small margin and Trump and his supporters get serious about taking the results to court. If that's happens we could be in for a tumultuous holiday season as we wait for January 20th to arrive—it all depends on how Trump wishes to handle his potential loss.