Most Common Documented Cases of Voter Fraud

News, Politics

Electoral fraud comes in many forms, both at the ballot box and away from it. It’s illegal to buy votes, stuff ballot boxes, intimidate or mislead voters, and destroy or tamper with ballots or voting machines. Being charged with electoral fraud is serious. But the recent debate over voter-ID laws centers on in-person voter impersonation fraud, where one person pretends to be another to cast a bogus vote, and it turns out that this kind of fraud is exceedingly rare.

Voter-ID Laws Address One Kind of Voter Fraud

Voter-ID laws require voters to have ID in order for their ballots to count. Those for the laws say that they will improve election results by reducing voter fraud. They argue that many voter registration lists are inaccurate and include names of people who are ineligible to vote in that jurisdiction. Those against the laws argue that inaccurate registration lists rarely lead to fraud, and more importantly, that voter-ID laws effectively disenfranchise thousands of voters.

The issue has become a hot button bipartisan debate. Voter-ID bills are often sponsored by Republicans, and the voters who would be disenfranchised are often minority and low-income people, who typically vote Democrat.

As of now, 34 states have voter-ID laws, some of which were recently passed and will go into effect within the next few years. Not everyone is happy with them. For instance, North Carolina passed a law regarding new voting regulations in August, and in September, the Justice Department decided to sue the state over it.

Do Voter-ID Laws Improve Election Results?

The other argument from those against voter-ID laws is that they wouldn’t make a difference to election results, since there are so few cases of in-person impersonation voter fraud in the first place.

Associate Professor of Law at Loyola Law School Justin Levitt researched the topic and found nine allegations between 2000 and 2007 of the type of voter fraud that voter-ID laws would stop. Another researcher, Lorraine C. Minnite at Rutgers University, described the amount of such voter fraud as “statistically zero.”

News21, an investigative journalist group funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, combed through documents and records to arrive at similarly low numbers; of 2,068 documented cases of alleged fraud since 2000, 633 were types of voter fraud, and only ten of those involve voter impersonation fraud. This map shows voter fraud across the country.

But whether or not voter impersonation fraud occurs frequently is not necessarily relevant to voter-ID laws. A 2008 Supreme Court case set a precedent when it determined that establishing the existence of voter fraud was not necessary in order to have a voter-ID law in Indiana.

Addressing Real Concerns Around Voter Fraud

Though in-person voter impersonation fraud is the topic of debate, it’s recognized that absentee ballot fraud, which is 50 times more common, is a much bigger problem. Addressing this kind of fraud is one way to improve the accuracy of election results, which is the ultimate goal. Meanwhile, several civil rights groups are focusing on helping people get state-approved IDs so they can vote in upcoming elections.