Is voter fraud significant enough to affect election results?


Fact Box

  • On July 30, Trump tweeted that universal mail-in voting would make the 2020 election the most “inaccurate and fraudulent” in history. 
  • A Stanford University study found that between 1996 to 2018 participation rose 2 percentage points in three states that rolled out universal voting by mail.
  • In the 2016 US presidential election, nearly one quarter of votes were sent via the mail; that number is expected to rise for the 2020 election. 
  • According to a 2017 study by the Brennan Center for Justice, the rate of voting fraud overall in the US is between 0.00004% and 0.0009%.

Stephen (Yes)

In Mark Wahlgren Summers' Party Games: Getting, Keeping, and Using Power in Gilded Age Politics, the University of Kentucky academic notes that political parties and candidates generally cheat for two reasons. First, some commit election fraud because they expect the opponent to do so. Second, however, fraud more often occurs because vested individuals and groups foresee tight results in a key office or across the board. Over 1,000 proven cases of modern era voter fraud shows the widespread nature of the problem. Heritage Foundation spotlighted four cases of voter fraud committed on behalf of candidates of both parties. Absentee ballot issues created an opportunity in most cases for corruption to affect the outcome. Other areas see direct vote-buying. In 2005, West Virginian politicians, were arrested for exchanging favors, including money payments, for votes. An AP report related that the Democratic Party vote-buying in the area was simply 'a way of life.'

Digital age innovations and mail-in voting raise concerns in the upcoming election season. Pandemic-related mail-in balloting caused a logistical nightmare in New York City, but resulted in indictments leveled at two city council members in New Jersey. Paterson officials set aside approximately 20 percent of mail-in ballots to prevent their inclusion in the count. From county surveyor to President of the United States, elections in many areas promise close results. With fraud more easily executed than ever before, officials should end practices that provide the most opportunity for corruption and remain vigilant in protecting the process.

Kevin (No)

Voter fraud in the U.S. has been found to be 'extremely rare.' Research done by the Heritage Foundation found a total of only 1,290 cases of voter fraud in all federal elections since 1982, out of billions of votes cast. As noted in an article on Stand Up Republic: 'Nearly all' of these cases involve 'an individual voting when it was illegal for them to do so, not widespread efforts to sway an election.' Analysis by Dēmos has shown how some of the most significant fraud accusations were proven 'baseless.'

Justin Levitt, a professor at Loyola Law School, conducted an investigation tracking 'credible allegations of potential fraud' between 2000 and 2014. Out of the 1+ billion ballots studied, only 31 of the allegations were found credible.

The myth of 'illegal immigrants' swaying elections has also been debunked. Very few cases of undocumented people voting, particularly on purpose, have been reported. David Becker, executive director for the Center for Election Innovation & Research, has noted there's 'zero evidence of even dozens, let alone millions, of non-citizens voting in this or any other election,' speaking about the 2018 midterms.

In light of recent claims by President Trump and others, it seems worth noting in particular that even mail-in voting has been shown to be quite secure. While experts have noted that there are 'potential problems,' as stated by the University of Chicago political scientist Anthony Fowler, 'voter fraud is very rare, and the risk of widespread fraud is probably very minimal, even with all-mail elections.'

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