Are Incidents of Voter Fraud Criminal?

How we perceive voter fraud, how it is presented in the media, and the criminality of particular actions raise interesting issues in our debate. When we cry ‘voter fraud’ we need to look at the instance in particular and the intention of the parties involved. Dealing with the charge from a legal standpoint a legitimate question arises when a court must decide whether a voter had intended to vote for a candidate and how to treat each attempt to vote.

As the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law School points out in its leading study on voter fraud, “usually, only a tiny portion of the claimed illegality is substantiated – and most of the remainder is either nothing more than speculation or has been conclusively debunked.” There are circumstances that can arise where voters or election officials make honest mistakes that may seem like voter fraud. Situations like these can present themselves in a multitude of ways. Take for example a poll worker who believes that an identification card is necessary to vote and makes a note of a lack of an ID. This would create a singularity that could be misconstrued as fraudulent, although no crime was committed. Another would be a former criminal misunderstanding the consequences of a prior conviction that makes the ineligible to vote. By trying to vote later, the situation could be labeled as an occurrence of voter fraud.

These are usually thought of falling outside the intentional nature of criminal voter fraud or election misconduct that we generally think of within the debate.[1] The difficulty in dealing with these occurrences is largely semantic. We have a tendency to attribute these singularities when they are certainly not voter fraud.

In the Next Segment: How we fight against voter fraud.


[1] Voter fraud is defined in California as = Registering ineligible people, registering fictitious people. CA Elections Code 18100(a)(b). OR Fraudulently voting in which you are ineligible to participate. CA Elections Code 18560(a).