Does A Concession Mean It's Over?

Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski i i

hide captionAlaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski

AP
Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski

Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski

AP

The Republican primary for the Senate in Alaska, where incumbent Lisa Murkowski has conceded defeat to challenger Joe Miller, has been the story of the week, if not the year.  Here's a question from Martin Ericson of Concord, N.C.:

Lisa Murkowski's recent concession with the election still technically in doubt reminded me of a long-standing question.  Al Gore aside, what is the legal effect of a concession?  If, for example, absentee ballots eventually swing the count in Murkowski's favor, would she win in spite of her "concession?"  Would the answer be different in a general versus a primary election?

Conceding only means you are stating the obvious:  that it appears the election cannot be won.  It's usually a gracious way of congratulating a victorious opponent.  Or, as Murkowski said, "We know that we have outstanding votes to count in the primary but based on where we are right now I don't see a scenario where the primary will turn out in my favor. And that is a reality that is before me at this time."

I think Murkowski's analysis is correct; the votes aren't there to turn it around for her.  She needed to get a much higher percentage of the absentee and provisional ballots out of Murkowski-friendly Anchorage than she did.

But let's say, for argument's sake, all the remaining votes went to her.  She would be the winner, concession or not.  Conceding the election does not supersede the actual vote totals.  A concession has no legal standing.

Al Gore, as you mentioned, conceded on election night 2000, only to "take it back" when Florida went from Bush to Undecided.  Ultimately, of course, he conceded once more — on Dec. 13.

In the special 2009 election in New York's 23rd CD, Doug Hoffman, the Conservative Party candidate who forced Dede Scozzafava (R) out of the race — I'm sorry, I can't go all these months without once again mentioning Dede Scozzafava — conceded on election night.  But as the lead of the apparent winner, Democrat Bill Owens, dwindled during the recount, Hoffman "unconceded" on Nov. 17.  And then he conceded again.

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