The words "rigged" and "voter fraud" have made their way through this election, but what will it mean if the election is contested? Regardless of who wins, can a candidate fight the results and dispute the entire election process? Technically, sure. But it will be incredibly messy.
According to CNN, each state has varying laws on what happens if a presidential election is contested. Some treat it as if it's a normal lawsuit, leaving the candidate to determine whether there was a mistake in the counting process or something else. Some states, go straight to the Supreme Court, some send it to the state legislature, and some have a Ballot Law Commission which includes someone being chosen by the governor that is knowledgeable about the entire election process.
Basically? It's a huge headache.
Whether Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump or Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton wins, a contested election is possible. According to Time, Trump has actually suggested that if he doesn't win the election, he may not accept the results. At the final debate, he told the country he would "keep them in suspense" about accepting the election results and, at a rally the following day, noted that he would "totally" accept the results . . . if he won.
So what does that mean? Does that mean he says the election was rigged? Does he fight every state and go against all of the ballots cast to save his ego?
According to the Boston Globe, it doesn't actually matter if a candidate concedes or not. When the electoral college results are tallied, if a candidate loses, it doesn't matter if they say they won't accept the results are not — the numbers are there. But they do have the ability to fight the election results. If the candidate plans on suing, they'll have to pull evidence worthy of a lawsuit in any particular state.
If that doesn't work, when Congress meets to count the electoral votes, at least one member of the House and one member of the Senate would have to submit in writing that they are objecting to the votes. But, both the House and the Senate must agree after debating the votes before any action can be taken.
So what will it mean if the election is contested? If it's seriously followed through, it will mean that there was a serious case of voter fraud or some other kind of issue erupting through the electoral college. But according to NBC News, it could be even bigger than that. A contested election could cause major problems for the market. Basically, it would be 2000 all over again and could affect jobs as employers struggle with not knowing where their business would be in six months and could potentially cause a recession.
Without major evidence that something has happened to skew the election results, a contested election means a lot of chaos and mayhem for nothing. But whether Trump wins or Clinton wins, the potential for a contested election is there, no matter what.