What is ‘election fraud’ and is it a true concern for the US Election results?
Since the United States Election Day (4 November 2020), President Donald Trump and his supporters have flooded the internet with allegations of widespread election fraud they insist is being used to ‘steal’ an election currently tipping in Joe Biden’s favour.
‘Election fraud’ means any illegal activity committed by any person who intends to cause an electoral result that may or may not be consistent with the will of the majority of electors.
Different types and examples of election fraud in the United States
- Voter impersonation: A person who is eligible to vote in an election votes more than once, or a person who is not eligible to vote does so by voting under the name of an eligible voter.
- Voter registration fraud: A person registers to vote or registers someone else to vote using a fictional name or without that person’s consent.
- Duplicate voting: A person registers in multiple locations and votes in the same election in more than one jurisdiction or state.
- Fraudulent use of absentee ballots: A person requests absentee ballots and votes without the knowledge of the actual voter; or obtains the absentee ballot from a voter and either fills it in directly and forges the voter’s signature or illegally tells the voter who to vote for.
- Buying votes: A person pays voters to cast either an in-person or absentee ballot for a particular candidate.
- Illegal “assistance” at the polls: A person forces or intimidates voters—particularly the elderly, disabled, illiterate, and those for whom English is a second language—to vote for particular candidates while supposedly providing them with “assistance.”
- Ineligible voting: A person who is not eligible to vote, such as non-US citizens and convicted felons, illegally register and vote.
- Altering the vote count: Changing the actual vote count either in a precinct or at the central location where votes are counted.
- Ballot petition fraud: Forging the signatures of registered voters on the ballot petitions that must be filed with election officials in some states for a candidate or issue to be listed on the official ballot.
Election fraud does occur within the United States; however, research shows that fraud is very rare, and many instances of alleged fraud are actually just mistakes made by voters or administrators. For example, in early October 2020 approximately 50,000 voters received the wrong ballot in the post in Ohio. There is no evidence this was done fraudulently, and the mistake was rectified by the local election board. Despite this, President Trump tweeted on 10 October 2020: Breaking News: 50,000 OHIO VOTERS getting WRONG ABSENTEE BALLOTS. Out of control. A Rigged Election!!!
This morning (6 November 2020) President Trump told reporters, “If you count the legal votes, I easily win.” “If you count the illegal votes, they can try to steal the election from us.”
The President did not present any evidence of illegal activity beyond votes being counted after election day which occurs routinely at every election.
It appears President Trumps baseless claims of election fraud are merely an effort to undermine public trust in the presidential vote.
After losing the popular vote in the last US Election in 2016, President Trump created a commission (the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity) to look into election fraud after claiming he would have won the popular vote “if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.” The now-disbanded commission uncovered no evidence to support claims of widespread voter fraud.
 The rate of voting fraud overall in the US is less than 0.0009%, according to a 2017 study by the Brennan Center for Justice.