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Washington Watch: Voter Fraud Freak Out

Despite the fact that the United States has the most sophisticated and accurate election process in history, rumors and headlines are swirling about voter fraud during this heated presidential race.

So, what exactly is voter fraud, and how prevalent is it? Can it really swing an election? While voters sometimes try different tactics to manipulate the outcome of an election, it’s nearly impossible to get away with, experts say.

The University’s political science professor Dr. Terilyn Johnston Huntington defined what constitutes a fraudulent vote.

“Voter fraud is when someone votes more than once, or when a person votes on behalf of someone else,” she said.

But, with all the precautions on how votes can be cast combined with the regulations on how they are transported, the chance of voter fraud happening at all is miniscule.

“I think the statistics are per 1 billion ballots cast in the United States,” Huntington said. “There have been 31 instances of voter fraud.”

Because votes are all electronically tracked, it’s next to impossible to cast one extra vote, let alone cast enough votes to make an impact on the outcome of the race.

“If you’ve already received an absentee ballot, you cannot vote in person. They track those things,” Huntington said. “And, encouraging people to do that is the definition of voter fraud. They won’t let you do it.”

Theoretically, it is possible that someone could get away with casting an extra vote. But, it’s highly unlikely.

“It’s not that it’s impossible, but we’re not talking about widespread, malicious voter fraud,” she said.

Huntington explained the rigorous process through which votes are cast and transported to ensure accuracy and fairness in the election process.

Every vote is carefully tracked by electronic voter roles, and election workers are never alone with the ballots.

“In Knox County we have paper ballots which are optically scanned and then put into a voting box that’s locked and no one can touch it.

“Once it goes into the box, it is securely locked and transported to the state’s board of elections. There must be a Republican and Democrat present at all times,” she said.

There is no way for the poll workers who are transporting the ballots to access the voting data once the box has been locked.

“These elections aren’t bush-league,” she said. “There is no stuffing the ballot box here.”

In short, a conspiracy to steal an election with falsified votes is fodder for television shows and movies. Elections are run at a state level, which is divided into counties and then further divided into precincts.

In fact, the federal government does not control the election process.

“States run elections. The federal government not does run elections,” Huntington said. “This rhetoric [regarding] voter fraud is casting doubt on the veracity of our electoral system and I think that’s really sad.”

Huntington discussed the effect this type of discourse can have on voter turnout.

“I don’t think this is especially helpful to facilitate voter mobilization,” she said. “It could lead to someone feeling like their vote doesn’t count,” and then they just won’t vote.

But, the election process in the United States is as sophisticated as it’s ever been, which means it is the most accurate and tamper-proof as it’s ever been as well. And, all voters can trust that their opinion will be counted, and counted accurately, Huntington said.

On the off chance that a fraudulent vote or two slip through the very small and very few cracks, it would never be enough to affect the overall outcome of a large scale election in the U.S.

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