What Is Voter Fraud?

If you watched the news around the 2008 election, you may be wondering exactly "what is voter fraud?" The answer is fairly simple on the surface, improperly interfering with an election, but can happen in a number of ways including by voters and those working the polls.

Among the forms of voter fraud includes individuals improperly casting votes. This can be anyone voting more than once in the same election or voting when not eligible to vote. While voting rights laws vary from state to state, generally individuals who are legal U.S. citizens over the age of 18 and registered prior to an election are allowed to cast one vote per election.  Should someone vote more than once per election, such as one vote by mail and one in person, or register and vote using false information, that is considered voter fraud.

Other times voter fraud occurs by the wrongdoing of those working the election, either before or during the actual election. This can include poll workers improperly prohibiting legal voters from participating in an election or permitting those prohibited from voting to cast a vote. Other cases, such as those leading up to an election, can be someone assisting in the fraudulent registering of voters, like submitting multiple registrations for the same voter or registrations for those prohibited to vote.  

Though rare, voter fraud is a serious matter which is punishable by law. Thousands of cases of voter fraud are opened each year, with only a fraction going further than an initial investigation. In some cases, the investigation was spurred by a simple clerical error, such as an old address on file for a voter, where as other states and localities simply do not have the resources to follow through with each case.

Like voters rights, penalties for voter fraud vary by state and by the exact crime committed. In Florida, one state key in the most recent presidential elections, anyone convicted of felony voter fraud can face up to three years in prison and a fine up to $5,000.

Perhaps the most well-known case of voter fraud occurred prior to the 2008 presidential election with the community organizing group ACORN. Several members of the group across the country were investigated by the FBI for submitting fraudulent voter registration forms, with certain cases including hundreds of registrations. The organization was later dissolved.

Be it on a small scale or large, voter fraud is illegal.  Those looking to report possible voter fraud should contact their state or local court.

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