One type of fraud that may not be very common, but is certainly being discussed widely by elected officials in the US, is voter fraud.

Most cases of voter fraud remain isolated events and a tiny fraction of total voting across the land.

Still, cases exist that have affected the outcome of votes. For example, East Texas County Commissioner Shannon Brown was recently arrested for committing voter fraud in the 2018 democratic primary election. Brown was found guilty of making false claims that voters were disabled to secure a total of 38 absentee ballots that made a difference in a close race.

There is a heavy emphasis on vote-by-mail in the 2020 elections due to present circumstances. We face a unique situation in the United States, which calls for new measures to ensure the integrity of the voting process, without impeding voters.

Voter fraud is preventable. State and federal entities can implement modern prevention solutions that don’t restrict voter participation.

How widespread is voter fraud?

Research shows that voter fraud typically happens on a small scale and has never significantly influenced the outcome of an election. For instance, scholars estimate that double voting accounted for 0.02% of votes in the 2012 presidential election.

A total of four cases were recorded in 2016. (For context, this constitutes a nearly insignificant 3 ten-thousandths of a percent out of the 138 million votes cast.) Two people voted twice during the 2016 elections. One woman used a ballot in her dead husband’s name. Finally, the fourth case was a Florida poll worker who marked absentee ballots to tamper with the vote count of a mayoral candidate.

Could 2020 be different?

Donald Trump suggested an election system in which voters cast two ballots in a recent statement to North Carolina supporters, one in person and one by mail. This confusing statement could result in double voting if people decide to follow Trump’s advice.

Due to the circumstances, states are preparing for an unprecedented number of voters filling out mail-in ballots. This could make it easier to commit voter fraud or make mistakes in filling out ballots. Ten states opted to prioritize vote-by-mail. Most states will let voters request a mail-in ballot or send one by default. On the other hand, five states will restrict mail voting to those with a valid excuse.

These measures will help keep people safe from COVID-19, and early research shows that mail-in voting could increase participation.

To be sure, it’s unclear if voting by mail results in widespread voter fraud.

Still, adopting a primarily mail-in voting model creates a situation where state entities need to rethink how they will handle the voting process, including fraud prevention.

Most common types of voter fraud

Voters usually commit fraud using these methods:

  • Voting multiple times. A voter casts a ballot both in person and by mail or registers in more than one location.
  • Impersonating another voter. Individuals impersonate another voter in many ways, from stealing someone’s identity to voting in the name of a dead person or convicted felon.
  • Registering a false identity. A voter uses a fake name or fake address to get more than one ballot.
  • Registering illegally. Non-citizens and convicted felons are among the individuals who cannot vote. There have been cases of illegal registrations from people who aren’t eligible.
  • Committing absentee ballot fraud. A criminal steals an absentee ballot from another voter or obtains an absentee ballot even though they don’t qualify.
  • Falsifying election results. Poll workers commit other types of fraud, like filling out ballots or altering the vote count.

Are we doing enough to prevent voter fraud?

Asking for a photo ID when someone votes in person works very well to prevent voter fraud. 

Voter registration will be the main prevention measure for an election that will rely on mail-in ballots over in-person voting. Most states offer registration by mail and online, and make it a simple process, provided that voters register before a deadline.

Maintaining up-to-date voter rolls is the main challenge for voter registration.

States often purge voters from lists, and voters rarely realize they need to register again until it’s too late. The number of voters purged has been increasing and reached 17 million between 2016 and 2018. These purges can be excessive. For instance, Indiana attempted to remove over 22% of registered voters from its roll between 2016 and 2018, but the decision was overturned.

Safeguarding voter registration with identity verification

Voter ID Laws: Poll workers asking for a photo ID may not be enough to prevent voter fraud as the U.S. prepares for its first election held primarily by mail. It’s time to adopt new solutions.

The technology that can prevent voter fraud without creating additional barriers for voters already exists.

Identity verification protects online merchants from scammers who use stolen or false identities. It delivers real-time identification and flags suspicious users without making things difficult for legitimate users.

Identity verification is an elegant solution for voter registration without voter suppression. Its deep learning models help ensure that voter registration data lines up, and identify dead voters or individuals who aren’t eligible to vote.

Learn more about how businesses tackle the problem of real-time identity verification, and how solves this problem using machine learning and collective intelligence.