Voter fraud is usually one of the last things on people’s minds as they head out to the polls, but it is possible and is something everyone should stay vigilant about. Someone can steal your identity and in turn, steal your vote. In other cases, electronic voting machines could inaccurately tabulate your vote.
Concerns of voter fraud have made headlines recently. Texas, South Carolina, Kansas and Tennessee have tightened their voter identification rules following reports of voting fraud in those states over the past five years.
In other news, Colorado’s new election system, which allows every eligible Colorado voter to receive his ballot in the mail, is drawing criticism over the fact that it could enable voting fraud. Ballots can be mailed back or dropped off in designated locations, which opens a window for identity thieves. The system also allows for “ballot harvesting,” meaning one individual can collect the ballots of up to 10 people to drop off.
Here’s what you should know about voter fraud.
1. What is voter fraud?
Voter fraud can occur if someone takes your identity and steals your vote, takes advantage of individuals who are registered in more than one state or confiscates or tampers with absentee ballots. It can also occur if an electronic voting machine inaccurately tabulates your vote.
2. How common is voter fraud?
Since voter fraud is so difficult to detect, there remains questions about the frequency of it.
The Justice Department conducted a five-year study of voter fraud under the direction of President George W. Bush and found just 38 violations that could have been taken to court. Only one of those cases involved someone impersonating a real voter.
In another study, the group True the Vote found 6.9 million overlapping voter registrations in 28 states. Meanwhile, Virginia Voters Alliance found 44,000 people were registered in both Virginia and Maryland.
3. What can you expect this year at the polls to prevent voter fraud?
You might see stricter voter ID requirements depending on where you live, so be sure to bring a government issued ID if your state requires it. You can check your state’s requirements here.
4. What kind of suspicious behavior should you look out for?
Any questionable behavior can be a tip-off for voter fraud. This includes an individual using a fake address, voting for a deceased family member or holding a questionable ID. It also includes a voting machine inaccurately counting your vote.
5. How you can report voter fraud?
Free app VoteStand, which was created by initiative True the Vote, makes it easy for individuals to document and report suspected voter fraud. Users can fill out a short report on the app, snap a photograph of the incident (when possible) and use the app’s geo-location feature. Users also have the option to share their observations on social media.
Of course, you can also voice your concerns to those monitoring the polls and your local government officials.