On Wednesday November 9, 2016 early in the morning Hillary Clinton conceded the election to Donald Trump. However, at that time:

  • most provisional ballots had not been examined or counted yet
  • many mail-in ballots had not been counted yet (some were still in transit having been postmarked November 8)
  • election results had not been certified by any officials yet
  • some races were extremely tight and in theory could change outcomes
  • the popular vote was opposite the electoral vote

If one state flipped the results could be either a < 270 vote "electoral tie" (goes to Congress to decide) or an electoral win for Clinton. If that happened, what legal effect if any would have resulted from her concession speech?

  • I suspect that some of your question can be answered due to the fact that the states know how many absentee ballots were issued, and the number is far less than the votes cast during the election proper, so its unlikely they'd sway anything. At any rate though, you're technically correct, which is why you'll see projected or presumed winner until the votes are ratified by the secretary of state for each staet.
    – Andy
    Nov 10, 2016 at 0:17

2 Answers 2


No, they are not legally binding. In 2000, Al Gore conceded to George W. Bush but later withdrew it. This had no legal effect on the subsequent court cases, several of which Gore won (although the attention is mostly on the final one, which he lost).

A concession is a political speech. It is not a legal statement.

  • Thanks Brythan. I had delayed selecting your answer to give others a chance to participate but it looks like you got it perfect on the first round. Excellent example with Gore.
    – O.M.Y.
    Nov 16, 2016 at 6:57
  • 1
    @fedorqui I know, just as I know I do not even need to select one if I think none are suitable. However my experience is that once an answer has been selected it tends to discourage further answers. As I said, I just wanted to wait and encourage others who might want to join-in before discouraging them. Brythan's answer is none-the-less a very good one and I am happy to select it.
    – O.M.Y.
    Nov 17, 2016 at 16:31
  • Gore didn't make a concession speech until December 13th. He conceded in a phone call to G.W. Bush. So if the question is strictly about the legal standing of publicly-made concession speeches, then Gore's early concession is not an example.
    – grovkin
    Oct 2, 2018 at 1:16

The U.S. Constitution governs who will become president. If a concession speech was legally valid, it would have the effect of one person, e.g. Al Gore, determining who will become president (e.g., George W Bush). Individual citizens do not have the legal authority to appoint the president in the U.S.

  • One person can determine who is to become the next President if he is the only other contestant. If, for example, a concession had the same legal standing as withdrawing one's candidacy, then it would award the only remaining person the victory. The question is whether it does have such a standing.
    – grovkin
    Oct 2, 2018 at 1:20
  • So what you're saying is you aren't allowed to choose not to become the president? Jan 8, 2020 at 18:14

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