By Carol Moseley Braun and Deborah Pryce
As former members of Congress from opposing political parties, we understand how high tensions can run around elections. But we also know that, regardless of whether we are pleased with electoral outcomes, we must accept the results.
In a good sign for our democracy, voters shattered turnout records this year. Historic numbers of Americans voted, and the 2020 elections were safe and secure, despite taking place amidst a deadly pandemic.
How was this possible? The short answer is that state and local election officials from both parties worked around the clock — together — to ensure a fair and accurate process, one in which every American’s voice was heard. These officials — our friends and neighbors — performed their duties admirably. From start to finish, they tracked and verified every ballot to make sure that each eligible voter cast only one. And they took the time they needed to follow our constitutional processes to tally the votes — even if that meant it was tough for the rest of us to wait for the results.
Candidates, it is true, are perfectly within their rights to challenge the results if they have a legitimate reason for doing so. Absent proof of wrongdoing, however, it is their responsibility to swallow their pride and graciously concede. We have seen no evidence of widespread wrongdoing this year. The will of the people is now clear. It’s now our patriotic duty to put country over party and accept the results.
We know how hard this can be. We have each suffered our fair share of political disappointments. One of us — former Congresswoman Pryce — even faced a race so close it went to an automatic recount. She waited five weeks before being officially declared the winner by 1,062 votes. In that race, in which more than 220,000 votes were cast, the recount added just seven votes to her margin of victory.
Nationally, recounts in statewide races have only changed the outcomes three times in the past 50 years. In each of these races — a U.S. Senate race in New Hampshire in 1974; a gubernatorial race in Washington in 2004, and a U.S. Senate race in Minnesota in 2008 — the candidate’s lead heading into the recount was fewer than 400 votes. No 2020 battleground state has a margin so small. This simple math has led even the likes of GOP strategist Karl Rove to conclude that neither recounts nor President Donald Trump’s legal efforts are “enough to change the final outcome.”
Given the challenges we face, we cannot afford to have widespread doubt sown into our system. Confidence in our elections is the bedrock of our democracy. Baselessly questioning election results just because we do not like them erodes the public’s trust in our system of government. In America, “we the people” choose our leaders; candidates do not get to choose which voters’ ballots count. Candidates had their time to make their case to voters. It is now time for them to listen to what the voters have said.
All Americans, likewise, must now turn our attention to ensuring a smooth, orderly, and peaceful transfer of power, as we have always done for nearly 250 years. We are still deep in the midst of the raging COVID-19 pandemic. Even if a vaccine is on the horizon, it will be many months until the pandemic is finally under control. Members of Congress and the administration need to confront these challenges head-on, not throw partisan tantrums or needlessly hold up the transition process.
Remember that, above all, we are not Democrats and Republicans — we’re Americans. Now, it is time for us to act like it. It’s time to put our country first and listen to the will of the people. That’s how we ensure the integrity of our democratic processes for years to come.
Democrat Carol Moseley Braun is a former ambassador and U.S. senator from Illinois. Republican Deborah Pryce is a former U.S. representative from Ohio. Both are members of the National Council on Election Integrity.