Despite some conservatives’ claims to the contrary, voter fraud is relatively uncommon in elections throughout the entire country, and that includes both mail-in ballots or traditional in-person voting machines. That being said, while there are certainly nowhere near “millions of examples of voter fraud in California alone” as some Republican pundits have claimed, it is also wrong to claim it doesn’t happen at all as some liberals have. There are a handful of convictions related to electoral fraud every year. In fact, The Heritage tracks and reports on every example of election fraud for every state of the union and you can search for examples by year, type of fraud, type of case and state.
Different Types of Election Fraud
When most people think of voter fraud, they tend to think of someone going through polling places and voting multiple times in a single election. However in reality, there are many ways people and organizations do actually perform electoral fraud. In fact, at the same time Donald Trump has been warning of increased risk of voter fraud related to mail-in ballots, his friend Kanye West has been under investigation for fraud in multiple states as large proportions of the petitions for his presidential candidacy have been found to be invalid. While most petitions of this type have at least a few invalid signatures as people often jokingly sign names like “Mickey Mouse,” the fact that up to 60% of the names on Kanye’s petitions are illegitimate with many names signed using the same handwriting is a sign that someone in his organization was willingly forging signatures.
But even these are only a few examples of election fraud in California. Other examples can include:
- voter registration by those who know they are ineligible to vote (for example, they are still on parole for a felony offense)
- registering as a deceased or fictitious person
- registering a person to vote without their permission
- accepting or offering money for a vote
- threatening someone to vote for a particular person or issue
- voting in an election where you are not entitled to vote (in a state where you don’t live, for example)
- being registered to vote in more than one state’s election
- impersonating another voter
- trying to influence someone’s vote within 100 feet of a polling place
- bringing a gun to a poling place
- challenging a person’s right to vote without valid reason
- tampering with voting machines
- using someone else’s mail-in ballot
- altering someone else’s ballot
- misleading someone who needs assistance to vote
Election officials can also be charged with voter fraud for either knowingly registering someone who is nonexistent or ineligible to vote, or for neglecting to or refusing to turn in registration affidavits.
Penalties for Electoral Fraud in California
Most forms of election fraud are wobbler offenses. This means you could face either misdemeanor or felony charges. As a misdemeanor, election fraud is punishable by a year in county jail. As a felony, you could face up to three years in prison. It’s worth noting that there is some poetic justice for those sentenced to a felony for attempting to rig elections as they themselves cannot vote in any election until they have served their entire prison sentence and parole.
A few types of voter fraud are less serious and are only charged as misdemeanors punishable by no more than six months in jail. These offenses include accepting someone money or other valuables in exchange for helping someone vote, interfering with a mail-in ballot and filling out a voter registration for someone without notifying them.
Tampering with a voting machine (even without tampering with the ballots) could open you up to computer charges, but is also a separate felony offense, punishable by up to four years in prison a fine of up to $50,000 for each act.
The Frequency of Voter Fraud
Major studies have shown most purported cases of voter fraud have actually been found to be the result of nothing more than negligence or defective voting machines. The real incidence of voting fraud is so low, a study showed it occurs between 0.0003 and 0.0025 percent of all votes. Ironically, despite their claims that the other side is committing fraud, the biggest recent occurrence of voting fraud was by Republicans in North Carolina who rigged the absentee ballot voting in a congressional race. In fact, President Trump started a voting fraud commission in May of 2017 and it disbanded by January of 2018 after finding very little to investigate.
Remember that while most talk of voter fraud is simply a matter of politics, these offenses are real and the consequences of a conviction are serious. If you have been accused of any type of election fraud, please contact Peter M. Liss at (760) 643-4050 to schedule a free consultation.
Image by Wokandapix