|Articles on illegal behaviour|
“”I consider it completely unimportant who in the party will vote, or how; but what is extraordinarily important is this—who will count the votes, and how.
Voter fraud is a type of moral panic weirdly popular in the United States. As genuine cases of it are almost nonexistent, it's almost always a dog whistle term for people of color voting. Actual cases of voter fraud fall into three broad categories: a single person voting multiple times in a single election, an ineligible person voting (e.g., non-citizen or non-resident), or a person casting a ballot in someone else's name without written authorization. The more-broadly defined electoral fraud can also include such things as vote buying, false disenfranchisement, ballot destruction, duplicate counting of ballots (ballot stuffing), or tampering with voting machines.
A widespread belief persists of hordes of illegal immigrants and homeless people being bused around from one polling place to another on election day. This claim has been used as an excuse to pass voter ID laws, abolish same-day voter registration, require birth certificates when registering to vote, and conduct frequent purges of the voter rolls. Even if voter fraud actually was a significant problem, few (if any) of these measures would actually be effective in preventing it.
In the U.S., polling indicates that belief of voter fraud being widespread is highly correlated with belief in Christian nationalism. Christian nationalists such as Paul Weyrich, co-founder of Moral Majority, have also spoken in favor of voter suppression measures in what they call "leverage" to exclude likely demographics that might oppose theocracy.
Other allegations to "panic" about include:
- ACORN — despite any evidence sorely lacking, the "ACORN engaged in voter fraud" allegation has been repeated so many times that people now make an automatic mental connection between ACORN and voter fraud. (For example, Ballotpedia, a supposedly neutral wiki about elections and candidates which is actually funded with Koch Industries money, has an entire section devoted to "voter fraud", with the infobox previously illustrated with the ACORN logo.) What those making these allegations really don't like is that ACORN was registering black people to vote.
- "Felons voting" — felons can legally vote in most states, and in most of them restoration of voting rights is automatic upon completion of their sentence. There are still a few lone holdouts still imposing lifelong voting bans on some or all felons or requiring a cumbersome petition instead of making restoration automatic. The trend in the last two decades has been to repeal those disenfranchisement laws. What those raising this claim really don't like is the fact that black people are voting.
- Intimidation of voters at the polls by the New Black Panther Party. This stems from a lone incident in Philadelphia, which has been mentioned so many times in the reactionary media, way out of proportion to its actual newsworthiness, that people believe it is widespread.
- Illegal immigration in general. The "illegal immigrants voting" claim has been used by the John Tanton network of immigration-restriction groups as a pretext to support voter ID laws, as part of their broader agenda of promoting tamper proof ID cards through the REAL ID Act and eventually a national ID card, which they view as key to stopping illegal immigration. One of the first of the current rash of voter ID laws (Arizona Proposition 200 in 2004) was promoted almost entirely as an anti-illegal immigration measure.
Dead man's vote
What started out as a joke in some states became an actual conspiracy theory. Claims that dead people
were rising from their graves to cast ballots somehow turning in ballots are largely overblown. People sometimes end up casting a ballot in their name, but this most commonly is the result of an internal error and not fraud. Some examples of things that can happen:
- A person is somehow, in fact, still alive. This claim that they're dead usually stems from the fact that their date of birth on the registry is very old.
- When states shifted to digital voter rolls, people who lacked a date of birth on their form were given a placeholder in some states when digitized.
- Someone has the same name as a dead person, usually someone who shares the same name as their deceased parent.
- Signatures on a roster may end up going into other rows, causing a computer to mistakenly think that the marks in the other rows are the signatures of other people.
- Very rarely, a person may legally cast an absentee ballot, but dies before the votes are counted. In these cases, seventeen states will not count the ballot, but the rest will.
People casting ballots in a dead person's name is still possible, but it's incredibly rare.
Republican Party election strategy
The Republican Party's strategy on elections has increasingly boiled down to "Heads, I won, tails, you lost." Or, "if I won, there was no voter fraud; if you won, there was voter fraud." This undemocratic strategy dates back at least as far as Richard Nixon's defeat by John F. Kennedy in 1960. Starting with the 2020 election, this tactic became weaponized by Donald Trump, who could not accept the idea that a majority of U.S. citizens hated him for good reason. Insurrectionist and Republican Congressman Mo Brooks even made this strategy fairly explicit to The New York Times, claiming that only Democrats commit fraud: "I'm in a Republican primary, and noncitizens don't normally vote in Republican primaries. In a Republican primary or a Democrat primary, the motivation to steal elections is less because the candidates' philosophy-of-government differences are minor." In the 2022 midterm elections, at least four other Republican candidates (Ron Johnson, Josh Mandel, David McCormick, and Adam Laxalt) have made similar claims that voter fraud only happens in urban (i.e., primarily Democratic) areas.
Early Republican hypocrisy
Before Steve Bannon was a Trump White House adviser in 2017, he made forays into the world of voter fraud, falsely claiming three times on voter forms from 2014-2016 that he was a resident of Florida. Prosecutors concluded, "This investigation revealed evidence that tends to indicate that the Subject did not intend to or actually reside in Miami-Dade County." Prosecutors ultimately declined to prosecute due to antiquated and poorly-drafted Florida laws.
2020: The year that allegations of voter fraud led to an attempted insurrection
“”I don't want my vote or anyone else's to be disenfranchised. […] Do you realize how inaccurate the voter rolls are, with people just moving around. […] Anytime you move, you'll change your driver's license, but you don't call up and say, hey, by the way I'm re-registering.
|—Mark Meadows (White House Press Secretary under Donald Trump from 2020-21), August 16, 2020|
“”We need to make sure that everybody's vote is cast. But we also need to make sure that no one else disenfranchises those by creating a fraud on the voting system.
Following his resounding defeat in the 2020 U.S. presidential election, Donald Trump began actively circulating allegations that he had actually won the election, and only lost it because of voter fraud. But this was not actually new; Trump has claimed voter fraud even before he became a politician — meaning he won the 2016 U.S. presidential election despite (or because of) voter fraud in his own mind.
Many false claims of voter fraud in 2020 were initially propagated by Russell J. Ramsland Jr. with his company Allied Security Operations Group. Ramsland tried unsuccessfully to push similar false claims in 2018, but no candidate took his bait at that time. In 2020, the false claims were incorporated into failed lawsuits by Trump lawyer Sidney Powell and Trump surrogates Louie Gohmert and Rudy Giuliani. The voting machine companies that were defamed by Powell and Trump's other surrogates, Giuliani, Lou Dobbs, Fox News, and Newsmax have subsequently been sued for defamation to the tune of billions of dollars.
|Name||State||Alleged circumstance||Vote cast|
|Ralph Thurman||Pennsylvania||Tried to feebly impersonate his son and cast a second vote||Unknown|
|Darrick Kent||Illinois||Falsely claimed Illinois residency||Unknown|
|Amy Kent||Illinois||Falsely claimed Illinois residency||Unknown|
|Adam P. Butler||Illinois||Falsely claimed he was someone else||Unknown|
|Thomas E. Wojciechowski||Illinois||Falsely claimed he was someone else||Unknown|
|Colleen A. Kirchoff||Illinois||Falsely claimed she was someone else||Unknown|
|Danielle Elaine Dooner||Pennsylvania||Tried to vote for her deceased mother||Republican|
|Melissa Ann Fisher||Pennsylvania||Tried to vote for her deceased mother||Democrat|
|Manikomal M. Kehler||Maine||Voted once by mail and once on election day||Unknown|
|Alyssa Dau||Maine||Voted an absentee ballot in the name of a former college roommate||Unknown|
|Christine Daikawa||Wisconsin||Cast a ballot for her deceased partner||Unknown|
|Brian Shilling||New Jersey||Forged a signature||Unknown|
|Frederick Gattuso, a former Republican mayoral candidate||New Jersey||Voted twice with different names||Presumably Republican|
|Steven Solop||New Jersey||Voted in two different districts using his business address for one||Unknown|
|Bruce Bartman||Pennsylvania||Voted his mother's ballot though she had been dead since 2008||Trump|
|Paul Parana||New Jersey||Voted his daughter's ballot|
|Mark Meadows (yes, the one with the above quotes)||North Carolina||Registered to vote at a residence where he allegedly never lived (perjury), allegedly voted twice||Republican|
|Debra Meadows (wife of Mark)||North Carolina||Filed at least two false voter forms (perjury)||Republican|
|Barry Morphew||Colorado||Voted his deceased wife's ballot, then was charged with her murder||Trump|
|Jay Ketcik||Florida||voted in Florida and Michigan||Republican|
|John Rider||Florida||voted in Florida and elsewhere||Republican|
|Joan Halstead||Florida||voted in Florida and New York||Trump|
|Charles Barnes||Florida||voted in Florida and Connecticut||unknown|
|Steve Watkins, former GOP Congressman||Kansas||Falsely claimed his residence was a UPS Store||Republican|
|Wendy W. Rosen||Maryland||voted in Maryland and Florida in 2006 and 2010||Democrat|
|Leslie E. McIntosh||Missouri/Kansas||voted in both states||unknown|
|Lorraine E. Goodrich||Missouri/Kansas||voted in both states||unknown|
|James D. Scherzer||Missouri/Kansas||voted in both states||unknown|
|Joan Halstead||Florida||voted twice||Republican|
In several cases, people have voted in two different state primaries in the same year, generally by changing residences. It's not always clear whether this is illegal, since state primaries usually are on different dates.
The real voter fraud problem
The moral panic around voter fraud is particularly silly if you consider how badly the proposed kind of voter fraud scales up and how easy it would be to get caught. It would take large numbers of people, access to extensive information about ballots that can be co-opted, a means of generating hundreds of false registrations resistant to examination after the fact, or at the very least, a way of stuffing large numbers of ballots into the count in a way that makes it difficult to tell they all came from the same place. As it happens, there is a form of voter fraud that scales incredibly well and has been used with much success in US elections: voter suppression. Closing polling stations in areas that skew towards your opponents, purging voter registrations in a demonstrably over-eager way and imposing onerous requirement to vote (in person or via post) are just three ways, and they have the benefit of being legal. The Republican party has had this kind of voter fraud as part of its arsenal for several electoral cycles.
In this context, the real reason for crying wolf about voter fraud becomes apparent: the moral panic helps create support for voter suppression. The spectre of voter fraudOriginal flavour is used as justification for voter fraudNew Coke.
An unanswered question
Republicans who allege that Democrats benefit from voter fraud have never answered a simple question: if voter fraud is so easy, why wouldn't Republicans do it just as often as Democrats? Put another way, if Democrats could really get away with busing voters from Massachusetts into New Hampshire, why wouldn't Republicans bus voters from Alabama into Florida and Georgia, from Utah into Nevada and Arizona, or from Indiana into Michigan? If millions of undocumented immigrants are registering and voting in the Southwest, why don't millions of conservatives register under false names and vote twice?
- A comprehensive investigation of voter impersonation finds 31 credible incidents out of one billion ballots cast by Justin Levitt (August 6, 2014 at 3:00 a.m. PDT) The Washington Post.
- Борис Бажанов. Воспоминания бывшего секретаря Сталина (1980) Всемирное слово.
- Violence isn’t the only way Christian nationalism endangers democracy: The threat of voter suppression is perhaps more destructive because its influence is more subtle and its effects more consequential. by Samuel L. Perry (January 5, 2022) Religion News Service.
- The Flag and the Cross: White Christian Nationalism and the Threat to American Democracy by Philip S. Gorski et al. (2022) Oxford University Press. ISBN 0197618685.
- Goodman, Jack, et al. “US Election 2020: The 'Dead Voters' in Michigan Who Are Still Alive.” BBC News, BBC, 14 Nov. 2020, www.bbc.com/news/election-us-2020-54874120. Retrieved 17 Nov. 2020
- Lajka, Arijeta. “Election Breathes New Life into False 'Dead Voter' Claims.” AP NEWS, Associated Press, 10 Nov. 2020, apnews.com/article/ap-fact-check-election-dead-voter-claims-fc7ba254fd37059f63ea764c18c2a4cb. Retrieved 17 Nov. 2020
- BBC Reality Check Team “US Election 2020: Five Viral Vote Claims Fact-Checked.” BBC News, BBC, 9 Nov. 2020, www.bbc.com/news/election-us-2020-54811410. Retrieved 17 Nov. 2020
- Toropin, Konstantin, et al. “Claims That Dead People Voted Went Viral. These Are the Facts.” CNN Business, 8 Nov. 2020, www.kmov.com/news/claims-that-dead-people-voted-went-viral-these-are-the-facts/article_b1ae3051-9c49-530d-bbfd-9efd193ce31d.html. Retrieved 17 Nov. 2020
- [www.euronews.com/2020/11/12/debunked-dead-voters-ballots-not-evidence-of-widespread-us-election-fraud Debunked: Dead Voters' Ballots Not Evidence of Major Election Fraud.] by Matthew Holroyd (12 Nov. 2020) Euronews.
- Associated Press. “‘Some States Count Ballots If Voter Dies before Election Day.’” NBCNews.com, NBCUniversal News Group, 20 Oct. 2020, www.nbcnews.com/politics/2020-election/some-states-count-ballots-if-voter-dies-election-day-n1243975. Retrieved 17 Nov. 2020
- They Insisted the 2020 Election Was Tainted. Their 2022 Primary Wins? Not So Much. Republicans are accepting their primary victories with little concern about the voter fraud they once falsely claimed caused Donald J. Trump’s loss. by Reid J. Epstein and Nick Corasaniti (May 31, 2022, 10:25 a.m. ET) The New York Times.
- Mo Brooks urged a Jan. 6 crowd to ‘fight.’ Now his actions long before the insurrection face new scrutiny. by Michael Kranish (January 10, 2022) The Washington Post.
- Hapless Trumpist Mo Brooks gives away the GOP ‘vote fraud’ scam by Greg Sargent (June 1, 2022 at 11:29 a.m. EDT) The Washington Post.
- GOP candidates add a repulsive new twist to Trump’s ‘big lie’ by Greg Sargent (February 8, 2022 at 10:41 a.m. EST) The Washington Post.
- Trump strategist Stephen Bannon won’t face voter fraud prosecution in Florida by Shawn Boburg & Robert O'Harrow Jr. (March 30, 2017) The Washington Post.
- Mark Meadows, his wife, Debra, and their trailer-home voter registration by Glenn Kessler (March 8, 2022) The Washington Post.
- Mark Meadows pressed on Trump's false claims of mail-in voter fraud by CNN (Aug 16, 2020) YouTube.
- 'This Week' Transcript 8-23-20: Mark Meadows, Kate Bedingfield (August 23, 2020, 6:45 AM) ABC News.
- Trump has longstanding history of calling elections 'rigged' if he doesn’t like the results by Terrance Smith (November 11, 2020, 2:24 AM) ABC News.
- The making of a myth: Russell J. Ramsland Jr. sold everything from Tex-Mex food to light-therapy technology. Then he sold the story that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump. by Emma Brown et al. (May 9, 2021) The Washington Post.
- Dominion Voting Systems Files $1.6 Billion Defamation Lawsuit Against Fox News by Merrit Kennedy & Bill Chappell (Updated March 26, 202111:14 AM ET) NPR.
- Despite GOP rhetoric, there have been fewer than two dozen charged cases of voter fraud since the election: One person has faced charges for every 10 million votes cast by Philip Bump (May 4, 2021 at 7:29 a.m. PDT) The Washington Post.
- 5 charged with election fraud in DuPage County by Susan Sarkauskas (3/9/2021 6:28 PM) Daily Herald (archived from March 10, 2021).
- 2 Bucks County women face voter-fraud charges in separate incidents by Robert Moran (Updated Apr 30, 2021) The Philadelphia Inquirer.
- [https://apnews.com/article/maine-election-2020-6586e91bcae342d46e6223e1425d5f09 2nd UMaine student charged with voter fraud (April 29, 2021) AP.
- A Cedarburg woman charged with voter fraud appears in court by Bruce Vielmetti (Published 10:15 a.m. CT Dec. 14, 2020; Updated 4:57 p.m. CT Dec. 14, 2020) Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
- Hunterdon man charged with voter fraud by Nick Muscavage (Published 2:49 p.m. ET Nov. 7, 2020; Updated 1:14 p.m. ET Nov. 9, 2020) My Central Jersey.
- Former Republican mayoral candidate in NJ charged with voter fraud by Suzanne Russell (Published 6:05 p.m. ET Jan. 28, 2021; Updated 5:09 p.m. ET Jan. 29, 2021) My Central Jersey.
- Highlands Businessman Charged with Voter Fraud (09 April 2021) Atlantic Highlands Herald .
- Pennsylvania man admits he voted for Trump with his dead mom's name: 'I listened to too much propaganda' by Jaclyn Peiser (May 4, 2021 at 3:06 a.m. PDT) The Washington Post.
- Debra Meadows appears to have filed at least two false voter forms by Glenn Kessler (March 23, 2022) The Washington Post.
- Man charged with wife’s murder illegally cast her ballot for Trump, officials say: ‘I just thought, give him another vote’ by Hannah Knowles & Paulina Villegas (May 15, 2021 at 6:38 p.m. PDT) The Washington Post.
- Florida Trump supporters arrested on charges of casting more than one vote in 2020 election by Eugene Scott (December 14, 2021) The Washington Post.
- 4th resident of The Villages arrested for allegedly casting multiple ballots: Charles Franklin Barnes was not affiliated with a political party when allegedly voted twice by Mike DeForest (January 4, 2022, 11:30 PM) Click Orlando.com.
- Former Congressman Steve Watkins agrees to diversion deal, could avoid prosecution by Andrew Bahl (Updated 2:38 p.m. CT March 3, 2021) The Topeka Capital-Journal.
- Another ex-Trump official who might have voted illegally by Aaron Blake (April 5, 2015) The Washington Post.
- People voting twice in Kansas, Missouri by Greg Reeves (Sep 5, 2004) Billings Gazette.
- 3rd resident of The Villages admits to voting twice in the 2020 election by Mike DeForest (August 20, 2022) Local 10.