This article originally appeared in the December 2019 issue of AMAC Magazine.
The issue of voter fraud has become a hot topic in the US over recent years, especially after the 2012 and 2016 elections. Politicians are deeply divided on this issue, with Republicans warning states to crack down on illegal voting while Democrats claim there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud taking place—but warn about cyber intrusions by foreign governments. Voter fraud is a wide-ranging topic and deals with many potential issues. Election experts have raised concerns about foreign interference, double-voting, and deceased residents casting votes, just to name a few. These problems are exacerbated by the diverse set of voting standards used across the country. Under the Constitution, each state is tasked with setting up its own electoral process, making it nearly impossible to establish a uniform set of standards, but improvements are being made. States are sharing practices and standards that have been successful in securing past elections, thereby ensuring voting integrity.
Because the issue of voter fraud is so broad, there is no silver bullet that will fix all of the problems. For example, voter ID laws can prevent unregistered individuals from voting, but it can’t stop registered voters from voting in two states if they are registered in both. Improving technologies are making it easier to prevent voter fraud, but they are also opening up new avenues for bad actors to infiltrate our elections.
Cyber threats have become one of the top issues with regard to voter fraud. Anything connected to the internet is open to a variety of security threats via bad actors. These issues can range from hostile foreign governments to domestic hackers trying to disrupt the electoral process for entertainment. One example of a cyber threat to our existing election system is the hacking of electronic voting tallies to increase the vote totals for a candidate. Hackers can intercept the data on its way to the Secretary of State’s office and alter the numbers for their preferred candidate. Many states have started to use paper tallies to establish backup records of all votes cast electronically and are comparing the paper tallies to those reported by the Secretary of State’s office after the polls close. Any discrepancies fall back to the paper copies, and the vote tallies are secure from hacking.
Protecting election systems from cyber intrusion is something nearly every state in the US is already doing because of the well-known threat. The only states whose electronic voting machines do not generate paper copies of all votes are Georgia, South Carolina, Louisiana, Delaware, and New Jersey.
As our world becomes more connected and an increasing number of our interactions occur online, internet voting is becoming a popular issue for younger generations. In some cases, internet voting can solve problems—such as for armed forces members and other Americans living abroad, who are able to cast votes with ease. Already, 20 states, including the District of Columbia, allow voters to submit absentee ballots via email. However, due to the increased threat of cyber interference, experts have said that this practice should be banned. Now, that isn’t to say that all votes cast via the internet are “fraudulent”; it simply means that this method of voting makes our electoral system more susceptible to voter fraud—that is, in the event of a cyberattack.
While cyberattacks receive much of the attention, there are also problems that arise in traditional voting systems. Double-voting is one of the most common occurrences, often because the individual doesn’t realize it is illegal. For voters who have two residences, they might register and vote in a primary in their first home but vote in another state on election day. This innocent participation in the electoral system is voter fraud because the person is registered and participating in multiple states. States are starting to share new voter registrations with other states to remove voters from old rolls, but the system is inefficient and unlikely to prevent someone from voting twice. One way to combat voter fraud such as double-voting is to verify election results in an open, transparent way. This audit will guarantee the integrity of an election and give voters more confidence that their vote counted—and mattered.
In addition to unintentional voter fraud across two states, there is the issue of intentional double-voting, which is prevalent in states such as Florida, where many seasonal residents live part-time. A voter will cast a ballot in Florida and also submit an absentee ballot in his or her home state. This is a problem that is growing and could end up possibly impacting general election results going forward. This is especially true when you consider that the US Senate race between then–Governor Rick Scott and US Senator Bill Nelson was decided by a 0.2% margin, or fewer than 10,000 votes.
Nationwide issues related to voter fraud have reached the point where Democrats in the House of Representatives are attempting to set new standards for what they call “election security” via the “For The People Act,” or H.R. 1.
H.R. 1 attempts to “restore the people’s faith that government works for the public interest, the people’s interest, not the special interest,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has said that it is a “terrible bill,” citing it as an unconstitutional maneuver that would enable voter fraud, saddle taxpayers with unnecessary costs, and tilt elections in favor of the Democrats.
Nonetheless, H.R. 1 seeks to expand the voting pool by allowing same-day registration, allowing voters to register to vote the same day as an election, potentially making verification tougher and increasing voter fraud. The legislation would also require states to set up automatic registration for federal elections for eligible voters.
H.R. 1 would also mandate the disclosure of presidential tax returns—a partisan jab to President Trump—and independent redrawing of the borders of congressional districts.
Only four states—Arizona, California, Idaho, and Washington—currently mandate independent redistricting. While the concept of independent redistricting is widely supported by the public with 73% of voters favoring it, this is a change that should occur at the state level, not mandated by the federal government.
The fact is committing voter fraud is not a difficult thing to do, especially a practice such as double-voting. But minimizing voter fraud is realistic and can be easily accomplished in most states simply by implementing some of the above recommendations: cleaning up registration rolls, using paper ballots as a backup, and implementing better controls on early and absentee voting. All of this would make noncitizen voting and other forms of voter fraud nearly impossible.
Even though these recommendations seem reasonable, some critics have stated that this is merely an avenue to suppress the vote. This could not be further from the truth, as there is zero evidence to suggest that cleaning up registration rolls, requiring government IDs to vote, using paper ballots as a backup, and implementing ballot integrity suppresses legitimate voters.
Voter fraud is a serious issue that every American should be concerned about. We need our state leaders—not Congress—to usher in reasonable solutions to combat the issue, because for every single vote fraudulently cast, it cancels out one legitimate vote.