What is a contested election and what would one mean for the presidential race?

If Donald Trump loses the presidential election, he’s not going to take it lying down. That bloated Cheetoh knows a loss means he can no longer control the entire news cycle for 24 hours by firing off an offensive 400-word tweet and the nation will quickly forget the infamous logo he put on every color of trucker hat. Refusing to accept the election results would allow him to remain the center of attention for at least a few more weeks, which brings up the important questions: What’s a contested election and what would it mean for the nation?

During the final presidential debate, Trump said, “I will keep you in suspense,” when asked whether or not he will accept the election results should Hillary Clinton win. Clinton called his statement “horrifying,” explaining that not accepting the results defeats the whole purpose of democracy.

Technically, if he claims the election was rigged and he really won (which he’s kind of expected to do), it would be a contested election, which simply means the results are being challenged. Of course, there are laws surrounding this, so Trump can’t just scream “I CONTEST THIS ELECTION” into the Twitter void and expect anything to happen.

Donald Trump Campaigns In Key States During Weekend Ahead Of General Presidential Election
CREDIT: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Every state has different laws, but most allow for a recount if there’s a very small margin of victory, and many automatically enter a recount if it’s one percent or lower. However, Hawaii and Mississippi aren’t down for recounts, so a candidate literally has to go to court in order to get a recount there. According to NBC News, 42 states allow for recounts if a candidate thinks it’s necessary, but they have to pay for all the costs involved (which Trump would certainly be able to do).

If it’s not even close and Trump still insists he was robbed, he’ll have to take it to the courts. However, he’ll need a valid claim that some type of fraud or irregularity took place to skew the election. For instance, if there were evidence suggesting people voted who weren’t qualified or properly registered (which Trump seems to think is a major issue), he could get a recount in specific states.

Congress set the date for electoral votes to official be cast as “the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December” (seriously, guys?), and additionally requires states to finalize their election results six days before the electoral meeting. So, any disputes would need to be settled six weeks after Election Day.

Let’s hope we don’t have to put up with six more weeks of this shit.