Is Voter Fraud Real? – The Voter Fraud Facts and Myths
Voter fraud is real and so is voter suppression. However, widespread voter fraud is very unlikely to occur, and convicted voter fraud in the United States is very uncommon. This means that while fraud may occur, it is not likely to occur to such an extent that it could offset strong voter participation. In other words, “voter fraud and suppression should be focal point and concern of citizens, but it is never a reason not to vote”.
Below we look at known voter fraud, assumed voter fraud, and the different types of voter fraud and suppression to find out if your vote counts. We all want to know if voter fraud is real, if the election is rigged on a local, state, or federal level for local, state, or federal races. (See how voting works for more on all the races being run in a given election).
Will the U.S. Presidential Election Be Rigged?. This video discusses many aspects of the “is or isn’t the election rigged” discussion. It essentially mirrors all the points on this page. Small scale grey-area fraud and suppression happen. Wide-spread dead people and illegal immigrant voting are far less likely. It isn’t known for sure if it happens; it’s just speculated. Stealing a Presidential election is near impossible due to the way the electoral system works, but that isn’t an excuse not to be vigilant.
TIP: “Undermining the legitimacy of our political institutions without cause” is a type of known voter suppression that happens and is a problem in this election cycle (as the above video suggests). While all types of voter fraud have the potential to occur, the real issue is legal rigging which involves things like media bias on one hand, but more insidiously involves grey area suppression tactics like crosschecking, voter ID, and gerrymandering on the other (it is largely why the Republicans keep taking the Senate and House and, some claim why minorities are underrepresented in the “Solid South” East politically). See the Netflix Documentary the 13th and Lee Atwater’s Infamous 1981 Interview on the Southern Strategy for how voter suppression and Southern politics are connected. Check out the movie Gangs of New York, Immigrants, Catholics, and Big City Machines, and FDR’s contested convention for a taste of Northern grey area vote suppression( although to be fair FDR is Northern and many Democrats are Southern in this time)…. Details aside, the point is that this is a real and age-old bipartisan issue, but it is not an issue of one party flat out stealing votes on a massive level to the extent that voting doesn’t matter.
FACT: A comprehensive 2014 study published in The Washington Post found 31 credible instances of impersonation fraud from 2000 to 2014, out of more than 1 billion ballots cast. The most damaging example involved as many as 24 voters in Brooklyn who tried to vote under assumed names. There are almost no elections in which 24 votes make a significant difference, especially at the federal level. In-person voter fraud is highly unlikely to affect the integrity of elections.
Is the Election Rigged?
The election isn’t illegally rigged in any known wide-scale way, although cases of small-scale illegal fraud have been proven and some other types of more wide-scale illegal fraud suspected but not proven. However, the election is legally rigged in some known ways. This is true for all local, state, and federal elections and ballot measures, although elections with more voters like the Presidential election are less susceptible to rigging due to the many districts and states who participate in the process with oversight.
What we mean by the statements above is:
- The election is legally rigged, so to speak, by redistricting or gerrymandering, politicians running unopposed, voter ID, and the general spreading of propaganda instead of facts. Anyone paying attention knew this before the election, and it is going to take our votes to change this.
- Meanwhile, the election is not rigged on a grand scale by known illegal means such as someone switching votes on a large scale, double voting on a large scale, non-citizen voting on a large scale, multi-state electronic vote tampering, or dead people voting on a large scale.
- However, there have been cases of suspected large-scale illegal voter fraud. These cases include controversy surrounding “black box voting,” which has been well known since 2004, see here, but which as been mostly debunked, see here, and which Congress has taken measures against, see here. There is a lack of credible sources to back this theory up, which was from the Bush years. The accusation back in 2004 was of Republicans “rigging” the election. In 2016, the accusation was first that the Democrats are “rigging” the election, but since Trump’s projected win it has switched to Republicans “rigging” (for instance this article). Did Republicans hack electronic voting machines and steal the election at a regional level? Did Democrats get 1.5 million dead people to vote regionally? The problem is that without hard evidence these are suspicions and claims, not known voter fraud! This is the type of accusations to expect in any election, and the type of fraud that can occur, but unlike with gerrymandering, voter id, and “fake news” these items are much more elusive and much less actionable.
- Suspicion of large-scale fraud may be disturbing and captivating. However, it is unproven and unlikely, which makes it a poor point of focus for those who want to enact real change today.
- Suspected, but unproven, large-scale voter fraud aside, small-scale regional voter fraud is known. Someone in a small town may engage in ballot stuffing; a politician may be colluded against by a political power; protesters may be bused in to make a ruckus. Mistake-based fraud like one case of electronic vote flipping is also known. They are proven reasons to be vigilant on a local and state level.
Nothing is impossible. Still, with the Federal Election Commission and other entities overseeing the voting process, and with the integrity of the United States on the line, it is very unlikely that we will see any voter fraud upset federal or key state elections for 2016.
To Conclude the Above
Taking into account all the points made above, we can conclude:
- “Your vote counts.” It just counts in odd ways that differ by election type and can be offset by red state/blue state politics,
- The election isn’t “rigged” illegally. However, widespread legal voter fraud and suppression like gerrymandering and voter ID regulations are real and significant. Small-scale regional illegal voter fraud has also been proven to have happened.
TIP: See a list of controversial elections for instances of suspected or known voter fraud. Also, see Wikipedia’s page on electoral fraud for all the different types of voter fraud that have occurred in various countries over elections.
How politicians rig elections. Most Americans think elections are rigged, and they’re right in some ways at least. Vox editor-in-chief Ezra Klein explains how gerrymandering works, and how to fix it.
Is Russia “Hacking the election”? People seem to be misunderstanding the subject of Russia and the U.S. elections. Since it is related to this topic, let’s clarify it. There is no claim that Russia was tampering with elections by tampering with ballots, or that the Russian state was interfering with U.S. elections directly. Some claim that hacks leading to some Wikileaks and DCLeaks documents, and some potentially unrelated “scanning and probing” of election rolls, could be related to Russia due to the size and scope of the hacks. It has been speculated by officials that only a major entity from a developed nation could have the tools needed to do this, so that narrows down the suspects. There are also accusations that the timing of the Wikileaks and their focus on Democrats is purposefully lopsided. In all cases, the motive is essentially the same. One can’t take America or a major party down with a direct hit, so manipulating the frustration Americans feel and using social media to funnel that frustration toward “the establishment” is a simple tactic that anyone can effectively employ to “divide the house.” In this way, the idea is to indirectly tamper, to make Americans think Russia is involved and question the results, but to keep things so gray-area and confusing no-one really knows for sure. I am not sure that Democrats and Republicans need much help going for each other’s throats, but of course an obvious tactic is to spur it along (just like when Germany sent Lenin back to Russia when he was exiled there; you don’t interfere directly, you use KGB-style subversion). That is the context, but it is all side points as we don’t know who the actors are for sure! Hacking, like wide-scale fraud, may be suspected, but it is not known. The real subtext is much clearer than the details. When we divide as a nation, we weaken ourselves. This is a benefit for our “opponents” whoever they may be and whether they are involved or not. What we know is that 1. No known voter fraud has been proven to have occurred. 2. Russia wasn’t accused of voter fraud. 3. The general idea is that “others” benefit from the U.S. being divided over elections. It doesn’t matter if Russia or Assange did or didn’t do anything; it matters how we react. When we refuse to accept the results of the election or cry “corruption,” we start down a slippery slope. We begin to act as “useful idiots.” This isn’t a mandate to hide from truth, it is a mandate to use critical thinking to find deeper truths. You can get all sides of the story here, here, and here. Hacking isn’t an issue to be dismissed. This is a time to be critical and to look hard to spot different types of truth without forgetting all Americans have a responsibility to safeguard our nation from any attempts to disrupt our political process, foreign or domestic.
Do the Leaked Emails Prove Voter Fraud? The leaks noted above show evidence of some legal, but underhanded, tactics used by the DNC, which is a private organization like the RNC. This fits in what has been long known. Some members of both parties are willing to stoop to shady practices at times on small scale, and not every tactic in politics is altruistic. Anyone who has read the father of political science Machiavelli knows this. Even the most scathing third party articles end up telling a rather ordinary story of mundane political tactics in-line with what one would expect. That which isn’t grey-area suppression tends not to be about voter fraud or suppression. Anyone who reads about the history of elections knows both sides have historically “gone low” at times. The DNC and RNC are giant political machines; they aren’t official government entities. Nothing about the election news cycle regarding Russia or the leaks hints at a widespread voter fraud. Instead, the news cycle on the left and right reinforces the main point of this page, which is underhanded tactics, especially divisive propaganda wherever it may originate, and a lack of a participatory informed electorate is causing our main problems. The best way to combat this problem is to get out and vote. Only 40%+ are coming out in off-years.
TIP: The ironic part is that the main reason politicians get away with legal voter fraud and suppression is due to low voter turnout. When people believe in the system and come out as an informed participatory electorate, it is near impossible to rig local, state, or federal elections. John Oliver did a whole very watchable segment on the importance of participating in local and state elections, check it out.
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: State Legislatures and ALEC (HBO). John Oliver explaining ALEC and some of the ways in which your vote matters in state and local elections. Once it sinks in how many uncontested seats are out there and how much this affects our Federation of 50 sovereign states you’ll never skip an election again.
TIP: There are many local, state, and federal races that occur in a given election. People are typically thinking about the Presidential election when they think about voter fraud, but this is the least likely election to be impacted by voter fraud due to the sheer number of voters participating in different regions and states. Fraud and suppression are more likely to occur on a local level, especially considering factors like gerrymandering. Learn more about how voting works.
Election Basics: Crash Course Government and Politics #36. If you don’t know how voting works, you can’t understand how voter fraud and suppression do and don’t happen.
The Schools of Thought of Voter Fraud and Voter Suppression
Now that we have covered the basics, it is important to understand that there are three conflicting schools of thought on voter fraud and voter suppression. They can be summarized as:
- In person voter fraud very rarely happens according to both studies and court rulings. The real issue is voter suppression like voter ID and gerrymandering. This stance tends to be taken by liberals, the Brennan Center for Justice, President Obama, and many politicians. See Debunking the Voter Fraud Myth.
- In person voter fraud is a problem. Things like voter ID aren’t forms of voter suppression; that is a myth created by liberals. Groups like ACORN are a threat to the electoral process and voter ID is needed to ensure against real voter fraud that often goes unnoticed. This stance tends to be taken by conservatives. See Voter Fraud Is Real. Here’s The Proof.
- Both voter fraud and voter suppression are rampant; the major two parties work to suppress the vote of third party candidates and favor the establishment. Both major parties cherry pick facts and work together against third parties. Like Julian Assange says, “the establishment won’t let X political win.” This is the stance taken by some independents, libertarians, radicals, and progressives. Many people have theories. See Here’s A Rundown of Election Fraud in the 2016 Presidential Race So Far and No, voter fraud isn’t a myth: 10 cases where it’s all too real.
While my research shows that the first claim is the most correct (according to studies and court rulings), I’d argue that all sides have valid points. We won’t pick a side here. Instead, we will just present facts and some points you need to know to understand the debate better.
How Political Parties Rig Elections. One of those “independent” videos.
TIP: Types of voter fraud and voter suppression may occur in all races and on behalf of any party. Neither major party in the United States has a monopoly on voter fraud or suppression. So while voter fraud and voter suppression are real, it is a mistake to pin the blame on any one party. Probably the most disturbing part of 2016 is the laser focus on vicious personal attacks. If only one party controlled things, then only one party would win. We just got done with 16 years of Reagan and the Bush family and 16 years of Clinton and Obama combined. We are at a 50/50 split here. See our breakdown of the ideology of every past President for some reconfirmation that neither party as a monopoly on the highest office, let along House, Senate, or state or local offices.
Is Voter Fraud a Problem?
As noted above, voter fraud isn’t an official problem according to published studies and court cases. The number of convicted instances of voter fraud has historically been low, for example:
“Out of the 197 million votes cast for federal candidates between 2002 and 2005, only 40 voters were indicted for voter fraud. Only 26 of those cases, or about .00000013 percent of the votes cast, resulted in convictions or guilty pleas”.
In other words, convicted instances of voter fraud are rarer than UFO sightings. Of course many suspect, with good reason, that most instances of voter fraud go unnoticed.
BOTTOM LINE: Known in-person voter fraud is not a major problem. That statement needs to be taken with the nuances of this page in mind, but it is cold hard fact when phrased that way. You are more likely to get struck by lightening than see a conviction of in-person voter fraud.
EARLY AMERICA VOTING: In early America, only “freeholders” (a free, adult, male resident of his county and a member of the predominant religious group) could vote. Up to 75% of the wealthier white adult males of mainstream religions qualified as voters in most colonies. After eliminating everyone under the age of 21, all slaves and women, most Jews and Catholics, plus those men too poor to be freeholders, the colonial electorate consisted of perhaps only 10-20% of the total population. After the Constitution was signed and all white males could vote. The 3/5ths of each slave and some natives were counted, but unable to vote themselves. Only a small fraction of the population voted in practice. Today a solid 60%+ of voters come out for Presidential elections. Less voter suppression and fraud happen than ever. It is progress, not perfection.
The History of U.S. Elections (1964-2016). A discussion on realigning elections. These votes counted in these elections. Don’t think yours won’t moving forward.
Why Don’t we Convict More People of Voter Fraud if it is Suspected of Happening?
There is a pertinent question here. It is, “if we suspect voter fraud is occurring, why aren’t there more convictions?” The answer is possibly simple and can be explained by a few points, which are a theory, not fact.
- America has a two-party system in practice, a political duopoly, born from the fact that majorities are needed to win elections. In America, our two parties are very powerful entities filled with citizens, interest groups, and powerful elected and unelected leaders. It is hard to stand against such a powerhouse.
- America is also a Republic with respect for tradition and a desire for unity. We get our mentality from the British. If it is any clue, it took them decades to apologize for the anti-LGBT discrimination figures like Oscar Wilde and Alan Turing faced. It’s an honor-based, Victorian, “don’t ask; don’t tell” position. The stability and order of the nation are placed above acknowledging mistakes.
- When we focus heavily on the voter fraud that occurs, it causes our citizens to lose faith in elections, and that makes it harder for our leaders to lead. Downplaying voter fraud is probably a matter of practicality at its root.
The above truisms result in a culture in which Presidents are pardoned like when Ford pardoned Nixon, and upstanding opponents conceded to each other like when Bernie Sanders conceded to Hillary Clinton or when Gore conceded to Bush.
When a candidate doesn’t win by a clear margin, the cultural norm is to concede and not contest. FDR had a contested convention, but we customarily accept judgments in a tight race although recounts are allowed for, and decisions can be contested.
If the U.S. won’t accept the 2016 election results and starts infighting we weaken ourselves and present an opening for others to pick at us while we aren’t united. It is a bad idea for the United States not to be united given our position as a hegemonic power currently helping to keep world peace. The point of the separation of powers and Republic isn’t just to make things fair internally; it is to ensure against the tyranny of the majority and infighting.
PROOF that elections are rigged!! Video confession! Sometimes voter fraud does happen and we don’t talk about it to keep the peace. Still, it isn’t going to happen with a clear majority. It is going to happen in a close race where some unsavory character in the background can hit the panic button.
TIP: We have all heard about ballot stuffing, throwing provisional ballots out, Diebold voting machines, and straight up worse and less talked about voter fraud Gangs of New York style. None of this can override a strong majority due to the way voting works in the United States. Each of the 50 states and the many districts within the states handles votes. No single region is immune to voter fraud, but widespread voter fraud is very uncommon.
VOTER FRAUD IN HISTORY: Voter fraud and suppression have been occurring in America since day one. According to a 2008 article in Slate, “In colonial America candidates would promise land for votes,” and officials would “manipulate poll locations, voting times, and voter qualification” or change election results unilaterally and intimidate various voters. George Washington won his seat in the Virginia House of Burgesses in 1758 by spending 40 pounds on alcohol for his neighbors. Drinking around polling stations was banned because of these practices. Voter intimidation by “bosses” used to be very common.
Is Voter Suppression a Problem?
Voter suppression is a much more widely known problem than voter fraud, but it is also a much more contested subject. If we consider voter intimidation, misinformation, and making it difficult to cast a ballot voter suppression, then it is rampant in most historic elections.
In the U.S. we have two major problems, and both are legal: Gerrymandering and Voter ID laws.
- Gerrymandering or redistricting, is when lines are drawn to create red regions and blue regions or in the worst cases to ensure all red or all blue states by carving up regions tactically.
- Voter ID is a double-edged sword; it is the requirement that a certain type of ID must be obtained to vote. This prevents some types of voter fraud like falsely recording of votes, buying votes, or casting ballots of dead voters. It can easily be considered voter suppression when it causes fewer minorities, college students, and seniors to vote as it is harder for them to get IDs and get to polling places, each for a different reason.
Gerrymandering: Crash Course Government and Politics #37.
Voter Suppression Is Real & Now We Have Mathematical Proof.
FACT: The Fifth Circuit, in an opinion, found that Texas’s strict photo ID law is racially discriminatory. The court noted that there were “only two convictions for in-person voter impersonation fraud out of 20 million votes cast in the decade” before Texas passed its law.
Types of Voter Fraud and Voter Suppression
The best thing to remember when researching voter fraud and voter suppression aside from the key points noted above, is to remember that there are many different types of voter fraud and suppression. The list below is from voterfraudfacts.com with permission.
- Electorate Manipulation- Manipulation of Demography and Disenfranchisement.
- Intimidation- Violence or the Threat of Violence, Attacks on Polling Places, Legal Threats, and Economic Threats.
- Vote Buying- Rewarding a voter for voting (or not voting) in a specific way.
- Misinformation- Presenting false information about the process of voting or the issues of an election.
- Misleading or Confusing Ballot Papers- Presenting confusing or misleading ballot papers. Like, vote “yes” to vote “no” on “not legalizing marriage equality.”
- Ballot Stuffing- The submission of multiple votes by one person.
- Misrecording of Votes- The process of incorrectly counting votes or attributing a vote incorrectly.
- Misuse of Proxy Votes- Tampering or misrepresentation in the process of proxy voting.
- Destruction or Invalidation of Ballots- The process of destroying or hiding ballots.
- Tampering with Electronic Voting Machine- Just as it sounds, the process of tampering with an electronic voting machine in anyway before or after the voting process.
- Gerrymandering– The act of redistricting for political advantage.
- Voter Suppression– Suppressing eligible voters by any legal or illegal means in local, state, or federal elections.