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A crop of candidates are insisting they won their elections, despite not being close

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Former President Donald Trump has spent more than a year and a half denying his 2020 election defeat, despite clear evidence that he lost. But he's not the only one. During this election cycle, candidates across the country have refused to concede, even in races that are not remotely close. Georgia Public Broadcasting's Stephen Fowler has more.

STEPHEN FOWLER, BYLINE: Georgia Governor Brian Kemp won last month's Republican primary by a decisive margin, but one of his opponents decided there's no way that happened.

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KANDISS TAYLOR: I wanted y'all to know that I do not concede. I do not. And if the people who did this and cheated are watching, I do not concede.

FOWLER: Kandiss Taylor is a fringe far-right candidate who only earned 3.4% of the vote compared to Kemp's nearly 74%. Even before her own election, she pushed false claims about the 2020 race, voting machines and how elections worked. And she's representative of a new crop of candidates who are insisting they won their elections, facts be damned. This week, a Colorado County clerk indicted on charges including election tampering, finished last in the GOP secretary of state race, refused to acknowledge her loss and accused officials of cheating. In South Carolina, a pair of Republicans said their blowout losses were tainted by serious problems. And in Nevada, GOP gubernatorial primary runner-up Joey Gilbert told supporters in a video message he could not have been defeated.

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JOEY GILBERT: It is impossible for me to concede under these circumstances. I owe it to my supporters. I owe it to all Nevadans of all parties to ensure that every legal vote is counted legitimately.

FOWLER: There is no evidence to back up any of these claims, and most of them were not close. But Matthew Weil with the Bipartisan Policy Center says, unfortunately, that doesn't matter.

MATTHEW WEIL: There is a very strong segment of the electorate that believes strongly if their candidate had lost and they were doing well in the polls, even if they weren't doing well in the polls, it was the election's machinery that caused their loss.

FOWLER: The vast majority of elections end uneventfully, even in close races. But a recent incident in New Mexico shows how election denialism is spreading. Commissioners in rural Otero County gained national attention for refusing to certify the results in the Republican-heavy area. After pressure and threat of legal action, only Couy Griffin voted no.

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COUY GRIFFIN: My vote to remain a no isn't based on any evidence. It's not based on any facts. It's only based on my gut feeling and my own intuition. And that's all I need.

FOWLER: Griffin called into the meeting from Washington, D.C., where he was sentenced for his role in the January 6 Capitol insurrection. Weil with the Bipartisan Policy Center says you don't have to look far to see why losing candidates could benefit from ignoring electoral reality.

WEIL: There are clearly now perverse incentives for losing candidates to keep up the fight, and those incentives are that they can raise money.

FOWLER: The biggest example might come from Trump himself. He raised more than a quarter billion dollars to cover legal fees during his attempts to overturn the 2020 election. But the House committee investigating January 6 said that money went to organizations aligned with Trump instead. Voting experts and elections officials are worried this behavior will only increase in future elections, especially in battleground states where some elections aren't decided by such wide margins. For NPR News, I'm Stephen Fowler in Atlanta. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Stephen Fowler is the Producer/Back-Up Host for All Things Considered and a creative storyteller hailing from McDonough, Georgia. He graduated from Emory University with a degree in Interdisciplinary Studies. The program combined the best parts of journalism, marketing, digital media and music into a thesis on the rise of the internet rapper via the intersectionality of social media and hip-hop. He served as the first-ever Executive Digital Editor of The Emory Wheel, where he helped lead the paper into a modern digital era.