Republicans Challenging the 2020 Election Wouldn’t be Unprecedented, but Its Outcomes Might

Alex Indovina
8 min readNov 2, 2020
Credits @simplysuzy, unsplash

What will happen if Trump loses this election? As with most things Trump, no one knows. So far he’s fanning fears he’ll try to discredit the vote, backing it up with baseless claims mail-in ballots are fraudulent, and Republicans nation-wide are already engaged with voting-restriction lawsuits. Many claim this (as with so many things 2020) is historically unprecedented.

Not quite. The 1960 presidential race between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon was close — incredibly close. Out of 68 million votes cast, Kennedy won the popular vote by just 113,000 votes, a 0.2 percent margin. Nixon accepted defeat in the media, but behind the scenes, things were different. The GOP knew with just a couple more states Nixon could have won. Soon after the election, they took their grievances to courts nation-wide.

Given today’s divisive climate it’s not unreasonable to think another razor-thin election challenge is forthcoming. What makes today different, though, is Trump’s short legacy and the American environment.

Modern Republicans’ deeply distrust the media and government much more than in 1960, yet most also hold an even deeper admiration for their President. This affection, coupled with Trump’s recent court packings and refusal to guarantee accepting an election loss, could hold major consequences for the 2020 election.

1960: Kennedy vs. Nixon

303–219. That’s the final number of electors Kennedy won against Nixon. While it seems to be a much more comfortable lead than Kennedy took compared to the popular vote, it really wasn’t. He won Illinois by just 8,800 votes, and Texas by just 46,000. Many other states, such as New Mexico, New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware, were equally closely won. If Kennedy lost Illinois and Texas alone, he would have lost.

Republicans instantly objected to the results. The margins were so close something fishy had to be going on, they claimed. Their suspicions weren’t unfounded. Lyndon B. Johnson, Kennedy’s running mate, was involved in his fair share of fishy elections in Texas in 1941 and ’48. The mayor of Illinois, Richard Daley, was a well-known Kennedy supporter, too, and rumors circulated the big-city boss



Alex Indovina

Just your average dude with a master’s in history who enjoys writing, huskies, and cheap wine.