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Let’s face it — voting in the presidential election is different this year than it’s been in elections past. What’s more, misinformation about voting — including the notion that widespread fraud exists — is widely spread online. If you’re struggling to separate fact from fiction, here’s the truth behind six common election fraud myths.
- Myth 1: It’s easy to cheat the system and vote more than once.
- Myth 2: Absentee ballots create an opportunity for voter fraud.
- Myth 3: Fraudsters vote as dead people all the time.
- Myth 4: If the polling place closes while you’re in line, you won’t be able to vote.
- Myth 5: Everyone is required to show ID to prevent voter fraud.
- Myth 6: Election results changing are a sign voter fraud has happened.
- What’s next: Make sure you’re registered to vote and make a plan to vote
Myth 1: It’s easy to cheat the system and vote more than once.
No system is 100% cheat-proof. But states do a lot to ensure we have fair elections, that only eligible voters vote, and that people don’t vote more than once in a federal, state or local election, including in a primary election. Some measures (there are others) include the following:
- Cross-checking new registration applications against existing databases, such as the state’s department of motor vehicles list and the U.S. Postal Service’s National Change of Address files.
- Assigning each voter a designated polling place. Your polling place will have your name on its list. Your name should only appear on the list at this polling place. Generally, your polling place would change only if you move to a new address. But you should be aware that the site of your polling place could change from one election to the next. This year, changes in polling places are possible because of the coronavirus.
- Using election management systems that allow only one ballot to be associated with a voter, which helps prevent voters from casting multiple ballots.
- Comparing voter signatures for both in-person and mail-in voting.
Each state has its own laws on double voting. In North Carolina, for example, it’s a felony to vote more than once in an election, while Indiana considers this a misdemeanor. If you’re curious about the regulations in your state, the National Council of State Legislatures has more information here.
Myth 2: Absentee ballots create an opportunity for voter fraud.
Absentee voting is common and has a long-standing history in the U.S. It began as a means for soldiers to vote during the Civil War. Today, the requirements to vote absentee mean you must be registered to vote in order to request a ballot. And, as we said earlier, states take multiple steps to ensure that people who register to vote are eligible to vote.
As when you vote in person, voting absentee generally requires some type of proof of identity when you submit your absentee ballot. Although specific regulations vary by state, all states take steps to make sure absentee ballots are legitimate before being counted. Actions may include such things as checking to make sure the signature on a mail-in ballot matches the signature on voter lists.
Myth 3: Fraudsters vote as dead people all the time.
You might think fraudsters could easily steal Social Security numbers or other personal data from dead people and impersonate them in order to vote. But such cases of voter fraud are rare.
Each state maintains and regularly updates lists of all registered voters as part of its process to ensure the integrity of our elections, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, or NCLS. People who are no longer eligible to vote are regularly removed from the list — including those voters who’ve passed away. State officials track which voters have died by keeping tabs on data from their state’s department of vital statistics, department of health or other state agencies that handle death records.
In addition, states generally require a voter’s signature in order to vote. County election officials compare these signatures with past signatures on file to check for fraud.
Myth 4: If the polling place closes while you’re in line, you won’t be able to vote.
Lines at polls may be long on Election Day. If you’re in line to vote by the time the polling place closes, you have the right to cast your vote. Stay in line, no matter what someone might tell you, and exercise your right to vote. If you run into any problems with someone telling you to leave your polling line or blocking your attempt to vote at your polling location, you can call one of the hotlines organized by the national, nonpartisan Election Protection coalition:
- 866-OUR-VOTE for English
- 888-VE-Y-VOTA for Spanish
- 844-YALLA-US for Arabic/English
- 888-API-VOTE for Asian Languages/English
Myth 5: Everyone is required to show ID to prevent voter fraud.
Some states require a state-issued ID card with a photo in order to vote in person, but others do not. It’s important to know your state’s ID requirements, which you can check through Credit Karma’s Voter Roadmap or through information on the NCSL website.
If you want to play it safe, you can go to the polls with your ID card and a voter registration card if you have one. But if you don’t have proper ID at the polling place, you should be allowed to cast a provisional ballot that will be counted so long as you show proof of ID by a certain deadline after Election Day. Again, requirements vary by state, so be sure to know your state’s requirements before you vote.
Myth 6: Election results changing are a sign voter fraud has happened.
Election Night 2020 is likely to be a wild ride as various media outlets scramble to report popular vote counts and predict electoral votes across the U.S. Despite the myth that voter fraud makes election results change as votes are counted, there are legitimate reasons why election results may change, including these three:
- The ballot certification process: Every county in every state must meticulously certify all the ballots it counts, a process that can take days or weeks. During the certification process, vote totals can change.
- Absentee ballot counts before Election Day: Initial results from mail ballots counted ahead of Election Day could change as live voting results are added throughout election night.
- Ballots from voters who register at the polls on Election Day: In some states, you can register to vote at your polling place on Election Day. These ballots aren’t counted until after Election Day and may affect vote totals.
What’s next: Make sure you’re registered and make a plan to vote
Navigating all the paperwork and various local regulations that come with voting can be challenging. But armed with knowledge about your voting rights, how the electoral process works and what officials do to maintain election integrity means you’ll be able to vote with confidence on Election Day 2020 and beyond.
Here’s how to get started:
- Check to make sure you’re registered to vote through our Voter Roadmap.
- If you’re not registered to vote, do so immediately.
- Once you’re registered, decide how you’ll vote: absentee, via in-person early voting, or in person on Election Day.
- Know what’s required to vote in your state using the method you’ve chosen — mail voting or in-person voting.