Voter Fraud in 2012 Election vs. Voting Errors: Understanding Legalities

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The Prevalence of Voter Fraud in the United States

Tampering with voting machines is a crime. Image credit: Radio Fan

Recent studies have shown actual instances of voter fraud are extremely rare. One reason for the discrepancy between perception and reality is that the offense of voter fraud has a narrow meaning.

Many valid complaints about procedural irregularities on Election Day do not fall under the category of election or voter fraud.

Occurrences such as voting machines malfunctioning, running out of paper ballots, putting voting places under a mural of a candidate or erroneous times given out about when the polls are opened are not legally considered fraud unless done deliberately to influence the vote.

Mistakes and malfunctions and election officials not properly trained to do their jobs do not constitute fraud.

What is Voter Fraud, Legally Speaking?

Voter fraud occurs when a person who is not legally allowed to vote casts a ballot. This can be done by using false information to get on the voters’ list or by impersonating a citizen who is entitled to vote.  Other examples include felons who are not allowed to vote but cast a ballot anyway, and instances where someone improperly gets hold of an absentee ballot and ends up voting twice.

Some forms of election fraud are committed by campaign workers and election officials. These offenses include vote buying and falsifying the election count to favor a certain candidate. A criminal offense is also committed when a person or persons intimidate others to either vote for a particular candidate or to not vote at all.

One study, done by News21, gathered information on electoral fraud since 2000. As of August 2012, they found 2,068 cases of voter fraud out of over 600 million votes cast. Although some jurisdictions refused to provide information, the organization feels their results prove the incidence of actual voter fraud is low.

Those who say voter fraud is minimal and those who argue it is a major problem typically have political agendas based upon their view of voter identification laws. The first group argues the purpose of these laws is to suppress certain groups of voters while the latter says without proper ID, fraud can easily take place.

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