If Clinton or Trump is unsatisfied with the outcome, either could sue to challenge the process in court.
As the U.S. poll results trickled in, there is tension over whether Republican nominee Donald Trump or rival Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton would accept the outcome of the presidential election.
As the first polls closed on Tuesday at 7 p.m. (1 a.m. Nigerian time) Clinton was projected to win Vermont’s three electoral votes, while Trump was projected the winner in Indiana and Kentucky.
A correspondent of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in the U.S. reports that some of the voters expressed concerns over how the outcome of the polls would be received by supporters of both Trump and Clinton.
NAN reports that it is a norm in the U.S. for the loser of a presidential election to make a ceremonial call through to the winner, as a sign of accepting defeat and to douse any tension that might be associated with the poll.
The heated election campaigns by Clinton and Trump, which saw the two leading candidates attacking each other, had been seen by most Americans as unusual and taken the presidential campaign to its lowest in the recent history.
The allegations by Trump that the system is rigged against him had also generated concerns, with many Republican chieftains coming out to publicly caution him and dissociate themselves from such views.
Trump had also, at the third and last presidential debate in October, hinted that he would keep Americans guessing over whether he would accept the outcome of the election or not.
Both Clinton and Trump are also barely a mile apart in New York, where they voted on Tuesday after sparring with each other at campaign rallies.
While Clinton has said that she would make the ceremonial phone call to Trump should he win, such commitment was not made by Trump.
Patrick Butler, Vice President, Programmes at the International Centre for Journalists (ICFJ), said “Trump is such an unusual candidate, the predictions people make about him don’t always hold”.
A first-time voter in Newport News, State of Virginia, Lois Meddleton, told NAN that she was very concerned about the outcome of the election.
“I am voting for the first time but I am just very confused, I am not excited to vote because of the way the whole process has gone. I am just disappointed in the two candidates,” she said.
Sen. Mamie Locke, an African-American Democratic senator representing the State of Virginia, expressed concerns at the tone of the campaigns.
“All through the campaign, Trump has not done anything to temper individuals who have resorted to violence and I believe that all of that may spill over unto election day.
“So many things that have been said by people at his rallies, anti-Semitic statements, the entire Muslim statements, even the racist comments that has been made.
“These are the kind of people that showed up at his rallies and this may very well be the kind of people that showed up at the polls,” she said.
A professor of political science at Norfolk State University, Prof. Olusoji Akomolafe, told NAN that there are people around North Carolina where Trump has huge support base and who carry guns, adding it could cause tension with the African-Americans and other minorities in the area.
“If you look at those who support Trump, he has refused to denounce those leaned to the far right and they have said if the election is not won by Trump, they are not going to accept.
“But after the election, it is possible that there may be violence but I will not say it is imminent but I don’t think there will be large-scale riot, blocking of public places.
“I don’t expect such because, after all, this is U.S. and they take pride in their democratic process and nothing can further affirm that like peaceful transition,” Akomolafe said.
He, however, said that while he could trust Clinton to concede, he could not trust Trump.
“Trump is going to do something stupid; I will not be surprised because he will. Trump has a very big ego; his problem from the beginning to the end of this election is ego trip.
“This is somebody who doesn’t accept that he is wrong; I don’t expect any great concessional speech from him,” Akomolafe added.
Prof. Quentin Kidd, a professor of Political Science at the Christopher Newport University, told NAN that the last time the U.S. witnessed the kind of polarising electioneering it witnessed this year was in 1964.
“Trump is very polarising but Clinton has got one of the heaviest baggage of issues than any Democratic nominee in modern history.
“But Trump has broken every rule and he’s seen as racist and sexist,” he said.
However, Prof. Jeff Becker, an associate professor of political science at the University of the Pacific, said concession is a tradition and has nothing to do with the constitution of the United States.
“But the reality is that, even if either Trump or Clinton was to fail to concede on election night or at any point thereafter, the electoral process would carry on anyway and place a new president in the White House.
“The winner is still the winner, whether the loser acknowledges the results or not. Concession is constitutionally irrelevant,” Becker said.
He, however, added that an artful concession remains vitally important to American political futures even though the political mechanisms will proceed without regard for whether a defeated candidate publicly acknowledges his or her loss.
“Formally, a concession doesn’t matter, but perception matters tremendously in politics, and creating the common ground for people to work together towards legislation is increasingly shrinking.
“That’s been my concern. It’s not so much a formal process that’s at stake, it’s people’s willingness to abide by the process,” Becker said.
Sen. John McCain, a Republican senator and nominee for the 2008 presidential election against President Barack Obama, had criticised Trump’s allegations of a probable rigging of the presidential election, saying he peaceful transition of power is “the pride of our country”.
“I didn’t like the outcome of the 2008 election but I had a duty to concede, and I did so without reluctance.
“A concession isn’t just an exercise in graciousness. It is an act of respect for the will of the American people, a respect that is every American leader’s first responsibility,” McCain said.
However, Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence has said that both Clinton and Trump would accept “a clear outcome”.
“But I think both campaigns have also been very clear that, you know, in the event of disputed results, they reserve all legal rights and remedies,” Pence said.
NAN reports that American voters do not elect presidents directly, so although a projected winner is typically announced on Election Day, the vote is not final.
Members of the Electoral College cast their votes in December, affirming that a candidate received the 270 needed to win the election, then Congress counts the electoral votes in early January, and the new president is inaugurated Jan. 20.
During the interim, if either Clinton or Trump is unsatisfied with the outcome, either could sue to challenge the process in court.
As the whole world awaits America’s president-elect between Clinton and Trump, stakeholders say America would look for ways to mend political divisions, while appreciating that American history has included many periods of heightened discord.
The immediate past Governor of the State of Maryland, Martin O’Malley, told NAN that there would be a healing process after the Tuesday’s election.
“What I will say to the people overseas is that we are going through a very polarised time in America’s politics but America will come through this and we will be a better country when we come through it.
“This has been a humbling experience for all of as Americans to think that so many of our fellow citizens would be willing to say they support a man who behaves in the ways he does, makes the appeals that he does, who promises to jail his opponent after the election.
“This is not what we are accustomed to hearing in a presidential politics.
“I hope that a lot of Americans are offended by this behaviour that they will put an end to Donald Trump’s candidacy and repudiate him at the polls,” he said.
A Republican chieftain at the State of Virginia and a staunch Trump supporter, Jeff Ryer, told NAN that there has been a lot of pre-election hype but expressed doubt that the outcome of the election could lead to something uncertain.
“We tend to have fairly successful election except they are really close in one state or another. If it is very close in one state or another where there is a recount, then we could go through several weeks of indecision.
“We had that happened more than once in our history and we will undoubtedly survive it again. It will get heated along the way, definitely 2000 got heated along the way but eventually we got a final decision and other disgruntled side learnt to live with it.
“The advantage of having elections coming on a regular basis is just like for sports team after its loss, realising that there is another year to come.
“So I will expect that to be the result in this case,” Ryer said.