Is voter fraud a problem in the United States?

Claims of rampant voter fraud in US elections are commonplace, but are they accurate?


Election fraud perpetrated by voters is so rare as to be non-existent. When it does happen, it is nowhere near the scale necessary to “rig” the outcome of an election.


Many states are greatly expanding voters’ ability to vote by mail in the face of COVID-19. There are certainly security concerns, but “voter fraud” isn’t one of them.


Yes, use of mail ballots will be way up this year because of COVID-19. There will be challenges for many states that haven’t managed a process on this scale before.


However, rest assured that fraud of this sort is vanishingly rare and that there are many procedures out there to ensure the integrity of mail-in ballots.


Mail-in ballots already go through a careful authentication process to catch those vanishingly rare cases of fraudulent or illegal voting, including individualized barcodes and signature verification.

A Washington Post/ERIC analysis of ballots cast in CO, OR, and WA (which conduct their elections entirely by mail) in 2016 and 2018, identified just 372 possible cases of illegal voting out of a total of 14.6 million votes cast. That’s only 0.0025%!

Most of those possible cases end up just being simple errors on the part of the voter.

Even a database maintained by the conservative Heritage Foundation shows just 1,285 cases of potential voter fraud out of hundreds of millions of ballots cast over 20 years. Only 204 of those involved absentee or vote-by-mail ballots.

The only recent high-profile incident involving mail-in ballots was in NC’s 9th Congressional district in ‘18, and that was a scheme by a campaign operative, not individual voters.

Another common “anti-fraud” measure are so-called “Voter ID” laws, which require voters to show an approved form of photo ID at the polls to vote.

Supporters say that requiring photo ID to vote would allow poll workers to easily ensure that each voter is who they say they are. But how often does someone pretend to be someone else at the polls?


Turns out, basically never. Like, 31 credible allegations out of more than a billion ballots cast over 14 years, according to a 2014 study by election law expert Justin Levitt of Loyola Law School, Los Angeles.

Moral of the story: claims of rampant voter fraud have no basis in reality, and are usually pretexts for voter suppression. They're meant to undermine out faith in elections - don't give in!


Watch this CNN segment countering recent claims by President Trump and Attorney General Barr that widespread use of mail-in ballots poses a threat to the integrity of the 2020 election.

The Brennan Center for Justice has great reports on all kinds of democracy-related issues, including one on the myth of voter fraud and one focused on vote-by-mail.

The City of Denver Elections division produced this helpful graphic explaining the process by which they produce, send out, verify, and count mail-in ballots (Colorado votes 100% by mail).

Here’s a Washington Post article explaining their analysis (along with the Electronic Registration Information Center) that found only 372 possible cases of “voter fraud”—double voting, or voting on behalf of a dead person—out of 14.7 million ballots cast in 2016 and 2018 in three vote-by-mail states.

Take a look at the Heritage Foundation’s database of confirmed cases of voter fraud over 20 years.

Here’s the New Yorker on the myth of voter fraud.

The Brookings Institution put together this excellent explainer on the election fraud scandal from North Carolina’s 9th Congressional district in 2018.

Here’s the analysis by Justin Levitt of Loyola Law School, Los Angeles that details the 31 credible allegations of potential voter impersonation fraud he found out of over a billion ballots cast nationwide from 2000 to 2014.

For longer-form reading, check out The Voting Wars by Rick Hasen of UC Irvine Law School and Give Us the Ballot by Mother Jones reporter Ari Berman.