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Voter Fraud Part 1B: Electoral Fraud Methods


1.               Disenfranchisement: In some cases voters may be invalidly disenfranchised, which is true electoral fraud. For example a legitimate voter may be ‘accidentally’ removed from the electoral roll, making it difficult or impossible for them to vote. Corrupt election officials may misuse voting regulations such as a literacy test or requirement for proof of identity or address in such a way as to make it difficult or impossible for their targets to cast a vote. If such practices discriminate against a religious or ethnic group, they may so distort the political process that the political order becomes grossly unrepresentative, as in the post-Reconstruction or Jim Crow era until the Voting Rights Act of 1965. [1]

2.               Intimidation: Voter intimidation is any concerted effort or practice by an individual or group on behalf of a party or candidate to coerce (putting undue pressure) the voting behavior of a voter, group of voters, particular class, or demographic of voters so that they will vote a particular way, or not at all. [1] [2]

Absentee and other remote voting can be more open to some forms of intimidation as the voter does not have the protection and privacy of the polling location. Intimidation can take a range of forms. [1]

  • Violence or the threat of violence: In its simplest form, voters from a particular demographic or known to support a particular party or candidate are directly threatened or attacked[ ] by supporters of another party or candidate or by those hired by them. In other cases, supporters of a particular party make it known that if a particular village or neighborhood is found to have voted the ‘wrong’ way, reprisals will be made against that community. Another method is to make a general threat of violence, for example a bomb threat which has the effect of closing a particular polling place, thus making it difficult for people in that area to vote. One notable example of outright violence was the 1984 Rajneeshee bioterror attack, where followers of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh deliberately contaminated salad bars in The Dalles, Oregon, in an attempt to weaken political opposition during county elections. [1] 
  • Attacks on polling places: Polling places in an area known to support a particular party or candidate may be targeted for vandalism, destruction or threats, thus making it difficult or impossible for people in that area to vote. [1] Polling places in low-income, minority, and heavily Democratic areas may be targeted for vandalism or destruction, causing both psychological and physical impediments to voting. [2]
  • Legal threats: In this case voters will be made to believe, accurately or otherwise, that they are not legally entitled to vote, or that they are legally obliged to vote a particular way. Voters who are not confident about their entitlement to vote may also be intimidated by real or implied authority figures who suggest that those who vote when they are not entitled to will be imprisoned, deported or otherwise punished. For example in 2004, in Wisconsin and elsewhere voters allegedly received flyers that said, “If you already voted in any election this year, you can’t vote in the Presidential Election”, implying that those who had voted in earlier primary elections were ineligible to vote. Also, “If anybody in your family has ever been found guilty of anything you can’t vote in the Presidential Election.” Finally, “If you violate any of these laws, you can get 10 years in prison and your children will be taken away from you.” Another method, allegedly used in Cook County, Illinois in 2004, is to falsely tell particular people that they are not eligible to vote. [1] Voters are also intimidated when they are informed falsely that, for example, they will be arrested at the polling place if they owe child support or have outstanding parking tickets.[2]
  • Economic threats: In company towns in which one company employs most of the working population, the company may threaten workers with disciplinary action if they do not vote the way their employer or union dictates. One method of doing this is the ‘shoe polish method’. This method entails coating the voting machine‘s lever or button of the opposing candidate(s) with shoe polish. This method works when an employee of a company that orders him to vote a certain way votes contrary to those orders. After the voter exits the voting booth, a conspirator to the fraud (a precinct captain or other local person in collusion with the employee’s management) handshakes the voter. The conspirator, then, subtly checks the voter’s hands for any shoe polish or notes. If the conspirator finds shoe polish or notes in the voter’s hands, then that unfortunate voter gets fired or faces other unpleasant consequences. [1]

3.               Vote buying

Voters may be given money or other rewards for voting in a particular way, or not voting. In some jurisdictions, the offer or giving of other rewards is referred to as “electoral treating”. Vote buying may also be done indirectly, for example by paying clergymen to tell their parishioners to vote for a particular party or candidate. Vote buying is generally avoided by not providing a “receipt” for the counted vote, even if it’s technically possible to do so. [1]

Electoral treating remains legal in some jurisdictions, such as in the Seneca Nation of Indians. [1]

4.               Misinformation

People may distribute false or misleading information in order to affect the outcome of an election. [1]

Another way in which misinformation can be used in voter fraud is to give voters incorrect information about the time or place of polling, thus causing them to miss their chance to vote. In the 2004 presidential election, voters received phone calls with false information about changes in voting locations or misinforming them that they should vote on Wednesday instead of Tuesday. [ ] The Democratic Party of Wisconsin alleged that Americans for Prosperity engaged in this when a flier printed in August 2011 gave an incorrect return date for absentee ballots – Americans for Prosperity alleged it was a misprint. [1]

Former felons suffer intimidation when they are told that they are ineligible to vote when they are eligible or banning non-felons due to record-keeping errors. Conversely, in Florida during the 2000 presidential election, almost 20,000 people with names similar to felons were disenfranchised when an error-ridden list of “felons” was used to bar them from voting. [2]

The 2008 presidential election was one of the most competitive elections in our history, which led to many instances of voter intimidation. For example: [ ]

  • In October 2008, the ACLU of New Mexico and Project Vote filed a lawsuit charging a Republican New Mexico State Representative and a private investigator with voter intimidation and invasion of privacy. Newly-registered minority voters were declared in a press conference by the NM State Representative to have fraudulently voted in the state primary elections. A private investigator was later hired by a party official to go to the homes of these voters and interrogate them about their citizenship status.[2]
  • After a rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina, supporters of Barack Obama went to a nearby early voting center, where they were heckled and harassed by a group of protesters as they went in to vote. Nearly all of the early voters were black, and nearly all of the protesters were white. [2]
  • In Virginia, students at Virginia Tech were told that if they registered to vote in Virginia, it could affect their scholarship or tax dependency status and would obligate them to change their car registration and driver’s license to their permanent address. [2]
  • Finally, a poll worker in Dearborn, Michigan was perceived to be intimidating Muslim Americans, of which Dearborn has a large concentration. Two Michigan precincts also reported the presence of police scanning the long lines for voters with outstanding warrants, with one person being arrested.[2]

Currently, there are federal laws that make voter intimidation illegal, but their lenient penalties have spurred lawmakers to introduce legislation with more teeth. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 prohibit persons from intimidating or attempting to intimidate, threaten or coerce another person for the purpose of interfering with their right to vote freely in federal elections. However, the maximum penalty for conviction on a charge of voter intimidation under federal guidelines is a fine and/or no more than one year in prison, which has hardly deterred voter intimidation schemes in the past.[2]

States should expand and clarify what practices and tactics constitute voter intimidation, including, for example, the dissemination of false election information. The penalties for convictions of voter intimidation should be increased to a maximum of five years in prison and a $100,000 fine. Any attempt or conspiracy to intimidate voters should be punished equally harshly. Finally, the Attorney General should be required to report to Congress with a compilation of incident reports within 90 days of a federal election. The laws of each state should be strict in its punishment of persons convicted of voter intimidation so that they may serve as a deterrent to prevent instances of voter intimidation from occurring. [2]

5.               Misleading or confusing ballot papers

Ballot papers may be used to discourage votes for a particular party or candidate, using design or other features which confuse voters into voting for a different candidate. For example, in the 2000 U.S. presidential election, Florida’s butterfly ballot paper was criticized as confusing some voters into giving their vote to the wrong candidate. Ironically, however, the ballot was designed by a Democrat, the party most harmed by this design. Poor or misleading design is not usually illegal and therefore not technically election fraud, but can subvert the principles of democracy. [1]

Another method of confusing people into voting for a different candidate than they intended is to run candidates or create political parties with similar names or symbols as an existing candidate or party. The aim is that enough voters will be misled into voting for the false candidate or party to influence the results.[24] Such tactics may be particularly effective when a large proportion of voters have limited literacy in the language used on the ballot paper. Again, such tactics are usually not illegal but often work against the principles of democracy. [1]

6.               Ballot stuffing

Ballot stuffing is the illegal act of one person submitting or casting multiple ballots during a vote in which only one ballot per person is permitted. The name originates from the earliest days of this practice in which people literally did stuff more than one ballot in a ballot box at the same time. In a government election, this is a form of electoral fraud. [6]

Ballot-stuffing can be accomplished in a number of ways. Often, a ballot-stuffer casts votes on the behalf of people who did not show up to the polls (known as telegraphing); sometimes, votes are even cast by those who are long dead or fictitious characters in TV shows, books, and movies (known as padding). Both practices are also referred to as personation. In earlier societies[which?] with little paperwork, dead people were kept “alive” on paper for the purpose of ballot-stuffing. The family of the deceased often helped along, either to assist their party or for money. [1] [6]

In jurisdictions with absentee balloting, an individual or a campaign may fill in and forge a signature on an absentee ballot intended for a voter in that jurisdiction, thus passing off the ballot as having been filled out by that voter. Such cases of voter fraud have resulted in criminal charges in the past. [1]

Another method is for voters to cast votes at multiple booths, on each occasion claiming that it is their only vote. [1]

Detecting ballot-stuffing depends a great deal on how good the record-keeping is. Most election systems match the number of persons showing up to vote with the number of ballots cast, and/or preparing the forms so that they are difficult to fake. In short, successful ballot-stuffing usually requires the misconduct of genuine registered voters and/or elections personnel. [6]

7.               Misrecording of votes

Many elections feature multiple opportunities for unscrupulous officials or ‘helpers’ to record an elector’s vote differently from their intentions. Voters who require assistance to cast their votes are particularly vulnerable to having their votes stolen in this way. For example, a blind person or one who cannot read the language of the ballot paper may be told that they have voted for one party when in fact they have been led to vote for another. This is similar to the misuse of proxy votes; however in this case the voter will be under the impression that they have voted with the assistance of the other person, rather than having the other person voting on their behalf. [1]

Where votes are recorded through electronic or mechanical means, the voting machinery may be altered so that a vote intended for one candidate is recorded for another. [1]

8.               Destruction or invalidation of ballots

One of the simplest methods of electoral fraud is to simply destroy ballots for the ‘wrong’ candidate or party. This is unusual in functioning democracies, as it is difficult to do without attracting attention. However in a very close election it might be possible to destroy a very small number of ballot papers without detection, thereby changing the overall result. Blatant destruction of ballot papers can render an election invalid and force it to be re-run. If a party can improve its vote on the re-run election, it can benefit from such destruction as long as it is not linked to it. [1]

A more subtle, and easily achieved, method is to make it appear that the voter has spoiled this or her ballot, thus rendering it invalid. Typically this would be done by adding an additional mark to the paper, making it appear that the voter has voted for more candidates than they were entitled to. It would be difficult to do this to a large number of papers without detection, but in a close election may prove decisive. [1]

No person, from the time ballots are cast or voted until the time has expired for using them in a recount or as evidence in a contest of election, shall unlawfully destroy or attempt to destroy the ballots, or permit such ballots or a ballot box or pollbook used at an election to be destroyed; or destroy, falsify, mark, or write in a name on any such ballot that has been voted. [7]

Whoever violates this section is guilty of a felony of the fifth degree. [7]

9.               Tampering with electronic voting machines

All voting systems face threats of some form of electoral fraud. The types of threats that affect voting machines can vary from other forms of voting systems, some threats may be prevented and others introduced. “Threat Analyses & Papers”. National Institute of Standards and Technology. October 7, 2005. http://vote.nist.gov/threats/papers.htm. Retrieved 5 March 2011. [1]

Some forms of electoral fraud specific to electronic voting machines are listed below. Although most believe that tampering with an electronic voting machine is extremely hard to do, recent research at Argonne National Laboratories demonstrates that if a malicious actor is able to gain physical access to a voting machine, it can be a simple process to manipulate certain electronic voting machines, such as the Diebold Accuvote TS, by inserting inexpensive, readily available electronic components inside the machine. [1]

  • Tampering with the software of a voting machine to add malicious code altering vote totals or favor any candidate. [1]
    • Multiple groups have demonstrated this possibility. [1]
    • Private companies manufacture these machines. Many companies will not allow public access or review of the machines source code, claiming fear of exposing trade secrets. [1]
    • Tampering with the hardware of the voting machine to alter vote totals or favor any candidate. [1]
      • Some of these machines require a smartcard to activate the machine and vote. However, a fraudulent smart card could attempt to gain access to vote multiple times. [1]
    • Abusing the administrative access to the machine by election officials might also allow individuals to vote multiple times. [1]
    • Ballot stuffing is possible with one version of the Sequoia touchscreen voting machine. It has a yellow button on the back side which when pressed allows repeated vote stuffing. By design, pressing the button triggers the emanation of two audible beeps. [6]

Recommended Reading:

Not a Race Card (Voter ID)


Tea party activists attend area conference, attack voter fraud (Poll Watchers)


Destruction of Evidence? Ohio’s 2004 Ballots


Media Trackers Uncovers Massive Ballot Irregularities in Montana


Election Day leftovers




[1] Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


[2] Project Vote

Voter Intimidation


[3] The Reality of Voter Fraud

By John Fund

— John Fund is the national-affairs columnist for NRO.

May 2, 2012 4:00 A.M.

© National Review Online 2012.


[4] Roemer Exclusion from GOP Debates Just Latest Example of Corporate Media Electoral Manipulation

The BRAD blog

By Ernest A. Canning on 1/8/2012 1:06pm


[5] Block the Vote

New York Times


Published: May 30, 2006


 [6] Ballot stuffing

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

[7] Chapter 3599.34 O.R.C. Prohibitions concerning destruction of election records.



About Cincinnati Political Activism

*Graduated from Columbia College, Columbia, MO with a BAAJ degree in Administration of Justice. *U.S. Navy Veteran of 15 years. Medical separation. Rank of Chief Petty Officer. *Married and Father of two. *Born Again Christian

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My name is Jack Pierce and I am interested in politics. I used to say that "if you are not helping to elect local politicians, then you deserve what you get". I am fed up with what we get and I want to make a difference. Join Me.


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