Port: You have a responsibility, as a citizen, to accept election results you don't like

"What I've come to realize, as a grownup, is that while exercising one's franchise in an informed manner is important, as important is respecting the results of the election. Even if it doesn't go your way."

Rob Port at Wasilla City Hall in 1986.
Columnist Rob Port (the short kid on the right) at age 6 helping other children exhort citizens to exercise their franchise at city hall in Wasilla, Alaska, during the 1988 election cycle.
Contributed / Rob Port

MINOT, N.D. — I am obliged to write this column on the Monday before Election Day in order to satisfy a deadline for print publication on the Wednesday after Election Day.

What, then, to write about?

How about the idea that how you lose an election is as important as how you win one?

Growing up, I came to believe that one of the most critical responsibilities of American citizenship was voting, and for good reason. My first school was attached to the city hall in Wasilla, Alaska, where my mother was a clerk. After school was out, I'd often hang out in the break room while she finished her work day.

On election days, she was in charge of running the polling station at city hall. I'd watch, reverently, as the grownups took their ballots into the little booths. She would give me sample ballots to fill out. I'd pretend to vote, too.


Americans love elections, and that makes us unusual in the world. In a four-year cycle, Americans may, depending on which jurisdictions they live in, be asked to choose candidates in as many as 30 to 40 separate state, local, and national races .

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Germans might only vote on as many as eight races in that same time frame. In the United Kingdom, they might vote in a dozen or so .

It's not clear to me that this is a positive. The consent of the governed is important, sure, but are voters really making informed choices in the dozens of races they vote in every cycle?

I'm not so sure.

We'll leave that topic for another column.

What I've come to realize, as a grownup, is that while exercising one's franchise in an informed manner is important, as important is respecting the results of the election. Even if it doesn't go your way.

That's hard. Believe me, I know. Nobody wants to admit that the other side made their case better, and persuaded more people. It's even harder to own up to a lost election when the various activists and politicians and campaign operatives are making spurious claims of cheating.

There's Donald Trump and his obnoxious refusal to accept the results of the 2020 election, but the problem is more pervasive than that, and closer to home too.


To this day, some supporters of former Sen. Heidi Heitkamp insist that re-election was stolen from her in 2018 because Republican state lawmakers changed voter ID laws to suppress the Native American vote, despite tribal turnout breaking records that year.

This cycle, U.S. Senate candidate Rick Becker has fanned the flames of election conspiracies on the campaign trail, and his supporters seem ready to contest the outcome should he lose.

It's a sorry state of affairs.

Accepting a lost election means admitting that you made the wrong arguments. Or, at the very least, that you made the right arguments the wrong way.

It's a bitter pill to swallow.

But we have to swallow it when it's our turn.

The ballot box counts for nothing if we don't accept the results.

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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