The incidence of voter fraud has been studied numerous times. The consensus from credible research and investigation is that the rate of illegal voting is extremely rare, and the incidence of certain types of fraud – such as impersonating another voter – is virtually nonexistent. This page provides resources of several types:
- Studies and analyses on the prevalence of voter impersonation fraud
- Studies and analyses on the prevalence of noncitizen or nonresident voting
- Studies and analyses on fraud claims predicated on list matching methods
- Studies and analyses on fraud claims predicated on voter list maintenance issues
- Court findings on the frequency of voter fraud
- Sources on government investigations aimed at uncovering voter fraud
Where available, this page provides a link to an article’s full text or abstract.
Studies and Analyses on the Prevalence of Impersonation Fraud
- Justin Levitt, “The Truth About Voter Fraud,” Brennan Center for Justice, 2007. This report found that most reported incidents of voter fraud are actually traceable to other sources, such as clerical errors or bad data matching practices. The report reviewed elections that had been meticulously studied for voter fraud, and found incident rates between 0.0003 percent and 0.0025 percent. Thus, the report found, it is more likely an American “will be struck by lightning than that he will impersonate another voter at the polls.”
- Sharad Goel, Marc Meredith, Michael Morse, David Rothschild, Houshmand Shirani-Mehr, “One Person, One Vote: Estimating the Prevalence of Double Voting in U.S. Presidential Elections,” Jan. 13, 2017. This working paper, by scholars affiliated with Stanford, the University of Pennsylvania, Harvard, Yale, and Microsoft Research, assessed the possibility of “double voting,” or an individual voting twice. It concluded that that the upper limit on double voting in the 2012 election was 0.02%. The paper also noted that the incident rate was likely much lower, given audits conducted by the researchers showed that “many, if not all, of these apparent double votes could be a result of measurement error.”
- Sami Edge and Sean Holstege, “Voter fraud is not a persistent problem,” News21, Aug. 20, 2016. Two journalists authored an analysis for Arizona State University’s News21 “Voting Wars” project. They reviewed cases from five states “where politicians expressed concern about voter fraud” and found that no prosecutions were brought for voter impersonation.
- Philip Bump, “There have been just four documented cases of voter fraud in the 2016 election,” Washington Post, Dec. 1, 2016. A Washington Post correspondent reviewed news reports to locate examples of voter fraud from the 2016 election. The search found four confirmed cases of impersonation fraud.
- David Cottrell, Michael C. Herron and Sean J. Westwood, “Evaluating Donald Trump's Allegations of Voter Fraud in the 2016 Presidential Election,” 2016. A paper by three scholars at Dartmouth College reviewed allegations of voter fraud in the 2016 Presidential Election and concluded that there was no “evidence that there was a widespread, anti-Trump fraud effort that relied on either” noncitizen voting or impersonation fraud on behalf of deceased persons.
- John S. Ahlquist, Kenneth R. Mayer, and Simon Jackson, “Alien Abduction and Voter Impersonation in the 2012 U.S. General Election: Evidence from a Survey List Experiment,” Election Law Journal: Rules, Politics, Policy 13, 2014. Political scientists from the University of Wisconsin and Stanford reviewed evidence from a survey list experiment to assess the incidence rate of voter impersonation in 2012. They concluded in a published paper that there was “no evidence of widespread impersonation fraud” in the 2012 election. Their research “indicate[d] that the proportion of the population reporting voter impersonation is indistinguishable from that reporting abduction by extraterrestrials.”
- Justin Levitt, “A comprehensive investigation of voter impersonation finds 31 credible incidents out of one billion ballots cast,” Washington Post, Aug. 6, 2014. Levitt, who also authored The Truth About Voter Fraud and is now a professor at Loyala Law School, Los Angeles, reviewed allegations of fraud dating back to 2000. He identified 31 credible instances of impersonation fraud from 2000 to 2014, out of more than 1 billion ballots cast over that period.
- Ray Christensen, Thomas J. Schultz, “Identifying Election Fraud Using Orphan and Low Propensity Voters,” American Politics Research 42 (2014). Researchers at Brigham Young University examined impersonation fraud both at the polls and by mail ballot in selected jurisdictions in Florida, Ohio, and Utah. Outside of two previously known fraud cases, they found no additional incidents. They wrote that their results “support the conclusion that electoral fraud, if it occurs, is an isolated and rare occurrence in modern U.S. elections.”
- United States Government Accountability Office, “Issues Related to State Voter Identification Laws,” 2014. The Government Accountability Office conducted a review of existing research on voter fraud and found that the studies identified few instances of in-person voter fraud.
- Natasha Khan and Corbin Carson, “Comprehensive Database of U.S. Voter Fraud Uncovers No Evidence That Photo ID is Needed,” News 21, Aug. 21, 2012. Four years prior to the above News21 analysis, two journalists for the same Arizona State University project reviewed 2,068 alleged election fraud cases and found only 10 cases of voter impersonation fraud.
- M.V. Hood and William Gillespie, “They Just Do Not Vote Like They Used To: A Methodology to Empirically Assess Election Fraud,” Social Science Quarterly 93, 2012. Scholars from the University of Georgia and Kennesaw State University examined the 2006 election in Georgia and found no evidence that election fraud was committed by individuals impersonating deceased registrants.
- Republican National Lawyers Association, “Voter Fraud Survey,” 2011. In 2011, the Republican National Lawyers Association compiled a list (not intended to be comprehensive) of voter fraud convictions and prosecutions that occurred between 2000 and 2011. In 21 states, the RNLA found either zero convictions or one conviction for illegal voting activity.
- Lorraine Minnite, :The Politics of Voter Fraud,” Demos, 2007. Minnite tracked incidence rates for voter fraud for two years, and found that the rare fraud that was reported generally could be traced to “false claims by the loser of a close race, mischief and administrative or voter error.”
- Lorraine Minnite, “Election Day Registration: A Study of Voter Fraud Allegations and Findings on Voter Roll Security,” Demos, 2007. In a study focused on six states with long-standing laws allowing voters to register on Election Day, Minnite concluded that “the collective evidence suggests there has been very little voter fraud” in those states during the measured period (1999-2005). Minnite examined 4,000 news articles from the reviewed states that mentioned “voter or election fraud” and found “only 10 discrete incidents of voter fraud or alleged voter fraud that appeared to have merit.” Of those, only one concerned an allegation of impersonation fraud.
- Brennan Center for Justice, “Case Studies by State” (Highlights from The Truth About Voter Fraud), 2007. As part of the larger Truth About Voter Fraud report, the Brennan Center highlighted case studies covering nine elections in five states (Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, and Wisconsin) that each demonstrated exceedingly rare rates of individual voter fraud.
- Lorraine Minnite, “An Analysis of Voter Fraud in the United States,” Demos, 2005. As part of research conducted for a larger report on election security, researchers assessed the incidence of fraud in 12 states over a ten-year period. They searched news databases, reviewed case law, and contacted selected state officials. Their report concluded that “voter fraud appears to be very rare” in the examined states, and concluded that many of the cases that garnered media attention were ultimately unsubstantiated upon further review.
- Hans Von Spakovsky, “Stolen Identities, Stolen Votes: A Case Study in Voter Impersonation,” 2008, a report alleging that in-person voter impersonation is difficult to detect and more widespread than commonly believed. The primary incident cited by the report is a 1984 New York court case regarding a scheme by election officials. Professor Richard Hasen analyzed the grand jury document cited in the case and noted the fraud scheme would have been stopped by current safeguards, and would not have been stopped by a voter identification requirement.
- John Fund, “Stealing Elections: How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy,” 2004, a recounting a number of prominent examples of election misconduct, including allegations of vote buying, voter registration fraud, and illegal voting with absentee ballots. Media Matters criticized the book for distorting certain incidents. These include suggestions of vote buying in Wisconsin in 2002, which could not be corroborated by news reports, and allegations of fraudulent registration and improper counting of ballots in South Dakota in 2002, supported by affidavits which the state attorney general dismissed as false.
- American Center for Voting Rights, “Vote Fraud, Intimidation & Suppression in the 2004 Presidential Election,” 2005, an “after action report” of the 2004 election. The report used court records, police reports, and news articles to document incidents of alleged voter fraud, intimidation, and suppression. The report alleged that thousands of illegal votes were cast in 2004 based on reports of misconduct in 16 states. A critique of the report by Professor Richard Hasen noted that many of the examples of misconduct in the report were anecdotal. The vast majority of the examples of misconduct in the report concerned allegations of voter registration misconduct rather than illegal voting.
Studies and Analyses on the Prevalence of Noncitizen or Nonresident Voting
- Christopher Famighetti, Douglas Keith and Myrna Pérez, “Noncitizen Voting: The Missing Millions,” Brennan Center for Justice, 2017. The Brennan Center surveyed election officials from across 42 jurisdictions, who together oversaw the tabulation of 23.5 million votes in the 2016 general election. Their research found that in those jurisdictions, the officials referred only an estimated 30 incidents of suspected noncitizen voting for further investigation or prosecution. That comes to a noncitizen voting rate of 0.0001 percent among those jurisdictions.
- Justin Levitt, “The Truth About Voter Fraud,” Brennan Center for Justice, 2007. The Brennan Center’s 2007 report included a survey of news accounts and other complaints of noncitizen voting. The results showed that allegations of noncitizen voting that prove unfounded are far more common than allegations that turn out to be true. Some of the exaggerated or baseless allegations highlighted in that study include: A 2005 investigation into 1,668 Washington residents with “foreign-sounding names” which turned up no noncitizens; a 2000 investigation into 553 Hawaiians alleged to be improperly registered noncitizens, but none of whom had voted, and 2001 investigation in Milwaukee of 370,000 voting records that found four potential instances of naturalized persons voting before their naturalization date. Assuming the allegations of noncitizen voting as true, noncitizens voters would have accounted for between .0002 percent and .017 percent of the votes in the relevant jurisdiction.
- David Cottrell, Michael C. Herron and Sean J. Westwood, “Evaluating Donald Trump's Allegations of Voter Fraud in the 2016 Presidential Election,” 2016. A working paper by three scholars at Dartmouth College concluded that there was no “evidence that there was a widespread, anti-Trump fraud effort that relied on either” noncitizen voting or impersonation fraud on behalf of deceased persons.
- Stephen Ansolabehere, Samantha Luks, Brian F. Schaffner, “The Perils of Cherry Picking Low Frequency Events in Large Sample Surveys,” Cooperative Congressional Election Study, Nov. 5, 2014. A short paper concluded that “the likely percent of noncitizen voters in recent US elections is 0.” The piece responded to the methodology used in research purporting to find high rates in noncitizen voting by noting that flaws in the assumptions used to draw that conclusion.
- Natasha Khan and Corbin Carson, “Comprehensive Database of U.S. Voter Fraud Uncovers No Evidence That Photo ID is Needed,” News 21, Aug. 21, 2012. As part of the above News21 analysis, two journalists for the same Arizona State University project reviewed 2,068 alleged election fraud cases and found only 10 cases of voter impersonation fraud and 56 alleged cases of noncitizen voting.
- Lorraine Minnite, “The Myth of Voter Fraud” (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2010). Minnite’s book-length study of fraud allegations examined all complaints of voter misconduct received by the California and Oregon Secretaries of State for more than a decade. California received a total of 28 complaints of noncitizen voting, and Oregon, five. Out of that total, there were four convictions.
- Lorraine Minnite, “The Politics of Voter Fraud,” Demos, 2007. Minnite tracked incidence rates for voter fraud for two years, and found that the rare fraud that was reported generally could be traced to “false claims by the loser of a close race, mischief and administrative or voter error.” Her analysis of a Justice Department initiative to uncover voter fraud, which ran through 2005, found only 14 convictions of noncitizens for voting.
- David Cottrell, Michael C. Herron and Sean Westwood, “We can’t find any evidence of voting fraud in New Hampshire,” Washington Post, Feb. 28, 2017. Three social scientists, writing in the Washington Post, concluded that there is no evidence to support President Trump’s claim that Massachusetts residents were bused into New Hampshire to vote in 2016.
- Hans Von Spakovsky, “The Threat of Non-Citizen Voting,” 2008, a report citing examples of possible non-citizen voter registration, primarily based on jury lists. The report suggests that up to 30,000 noncitizens were present on California’s registration rolls in 1998 based on their answers to jury summons. Professor Minnite noted, after the report was released, that a California investigation uncovered little if any evidence of non-citizen voting.
- Jesse Richman, Gulshan Chattha, David Earnest, “Do non-citizens vote in U.S. elections, 2014,” a report analyzing survey results. The authors looked at responses to the Cooperative Congressional Election Study and found that 14 percent of non-citizens surveyed said that they were registered to vote. The authors said their “best guess” based on the data was that 6.4 percent of non-citizens voted in 2008 and 2.2 percent voted in 2010. After the methodology of this report was widely criticized, an author published a follow-up in which he cautioned against extrapolating too much from this data and that the initial estimate was “inherently uncertain.”
- Public Interest Legal Foundation, “Alien Invasion in Virginia,” 2016, and a 2017 follow-up. The 2016 report found that 1,046 individuals had been removed from the voter rolls in a 5-year period. However, an analysis of the report the Washington Post questioned the report after it found instances of supposed non-citizens flagged by the report who were actually eligible. Another review, done by Virginia-based Capital News Service, cast doubt on the report’s findings after it attempted to replicate the study’s methods and was unable to replicate its findings, identifying only 240 non-citizens registered, less than 10 percent of whom actually voted.
- Public Interest Legal Foundation, “Aliens and Felons,” 2016. Using similar methodology to the “Alien Invasion” report, this document found that 86 registrations were cancelled in Philadelphia on the basis of non-citizenship between 2013 and 2015.
Studies and Analyses on Fraud Claims Predicated on List Matching Methods
- Justin Levitt, “The Truth About Voter Fraud,” Brennan Center for Justice, 2007. The Brennan Center’s report found that many reported incidences of fraud can actually be attributed to “bad matching”: false positives that arise when comparing the voter rolls against some other source to find alleged double or ineligible voters. These can arise from a number of sources: Errors in the underlying data can lead to an incorrect match when one of the data sources is missing information; Partial matches can take place when a search confuses two similar but not identical records, like two people with the same first and last name but different middle names; And insufficiently precise matching criteria can lead to vulnerabilities like the “birthdate problem:” the surprisingly likely occurrence that, on a large enough list, two different individuals will have the same name and birth date.
- Lorraine Minnite, “The Politics of Voter Fraud,” Demos, 2007. Minnite found that attempts to match lists to identify illegal voting created a high number of “false positives,” leading to wildly inflated initial estimates of illegal voting. Her report highlighted examples of this from Connecticut, Florida, Michigan, and New Jersey.
- Brennan Center for Justice and Michael McDonald, “Analysis of the September 15, 2005 Voter Fraud Report Submitted to the New Jersey Attorney General,” 2005. The report from the Brennan Center and McDonald, an election law expert at the University of Florida, found that a list of purportedly illegitimate voters was substantially flawed on a match of first name, last name, and date of birth alone, mismatching middle initials were ignored, and other data errors occurred.
Studies and Analyses on Fraud Claims Predicated on Voter List Maintenance Issues
- Justin Levitt, “The Truth About Voter Fraud,” Brennan Center for Justice, 2007. The Brennan Center’s report examined numerous allegations of registration fraud and found in many instances false claims, alternate explanations, and unintended mistakes.
- Lorraine Minnite, Expert Report in Fish v Kobach, 2016. The report examined claims of illegal voting based on records for deceased individuals or other out-of-date registrations and found that there was little to no evidence of actual ballots being cast.
- Lorraine Minnite, “An Analysis of Voter Fraud in the United States,” Demos, 2009. Minnite’s study includes an example from St. Louis in 2000, in which thousands of voters were wrongly identified as being on vacant lots, when the majority of those lots actually had properties on them.
- Lorraine Minnite, “The Politics of Voter Fraud,” Demos, 2007. Minnite examined claims of voter fraud based on voter registration mischief, such as registering a pet, and found that the examples, even when intentional, did not actually result in illegal voting.
- Brennan Center for Justice and Michael McDonald, “Analysis of the September 15, 2005 Voter Fraud Report Submitted to the New Jersey Attorney General,” 2005. The report examined claims of double voting in New Jersey, and found instead many instances of duplicate or out-of-date registrations not attributable to voter-attempted fraud.
- Public Interest Legal Foundation, Aliens and Felons, (2016). In the same report that identified alleged non-citizen registrations in Philadelphia, the authors claimed that Philadelphia does not remove persons with felony convictions from the voter rolls, meaning that thousands of incarcerated individuals could be registered to vote. The report did not identify instances of illegal voting by incarcerated individuals.
Court Findings on the Frequency of Voter Fraud
- Texas, 2016. The Fifth Circuit, in an opinion finding that Texas’s strict photo ID law is racially discriminatory, noted that there were “only two convictions for in-person voter impersonation fraud out of 20 million votes cast in the decade” before Texas passed its law.
- North Carolina, 2016. In its opinion striking down North Carolina’s omnibus restrictive election law —which included a voter ID requirement — as purposefully racially discriminatory, the Fourth Circuit noted that the state “failed to identify even a single individual who has ever been charged with committing in-person voter fraud in North Carolina.”
- Wisconsin, 2016. A federal trial court in Wisconsin reviewing that state’s strict photo ID law found “that impersonation fraud — the type of fraud that voter ID is designed to prevent — is extremely rare” and “a truly isolated phenomenon that has not posed a significant threat to the integrity of Wisconsin’s elections.”
- Indiana, 2007. The Supreme Court, in its opinion in Crawford upholding Indiana’s voter ID law, noted that the record in the case “contains no evidence of any [in-person voter impersonation] fraud actually occurring in Indiana at any time in its history.” The Court instead pointed to combatting the perception of fraud as a basis for upholding the law. Two of the jurists involved in the case at the Supreme Court and appellate level subsequently questioned the decision and the validity of Voter ID laws in combatting fraud.
Sources on Government Investigations Aimed at Uncovering Voter Fraud
- Kansas, 2015-17. Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a longtime proponent of voter suppression efforts and vice chair of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, successfully lobbied state lawmakers in 2015 to grant his office special power to prosecute voter fraud. He reportedly claimed to know of 100 such cases in his state. In the nearly two years since being granted these powers, he has obtained nine convictions..
- Texas, 2014. Texas lawmakers purported to pass its strict photo ID law to protect against voter fraud. A court filing in a lawsuit regarding the law stated that the Texas Special Investigations Unit identified one conviction and one guilty plea regarding voter impersonation in Texas from 2002 through 2014.
- Iowa, 2014. A multi-year investigation into fraud led to 27 prosecutions out of 1.6 million ballots cast. In 2014, the state issued a report on the investigation citing six prosecutions.
- Colorado, 2013. A voter fraud investigation, in which the Secretary of State alleged that 100 people voted illegally, yielded one conviction for false registration.
- Florida, 2012. Governor Rick Scott initiated an effort to remove noncitizen registrants from the state’s rolls. The state’s list of 182,000 alleged noncitizen registrants quickly dwindled to 198. This amended list contained many false positives, such as a WWII veteran born in Brooklyn. In the end, only 85 noncitizen registrants were identified and one was convicted of fraud, out of a total of 12 million registered voters.
- Wisconsin, 2008-11. A state task force charged 20 individuals with a range of election-related crimes. The majority charged were individuals with prior criminal convictions..
- Maine, 2011. An investigation into 200 college students accused of fraud revealed no evidence of wrongdoing. Shortly thereafter, an Elections Commission appointed by a Republican secretary of state found “there is little or no history in Maine of voter impersonation or identification fraud.”
- Florida, 2011. A criminal investigation into nine individuals who allegedly committed absentee ballot fraud in a school board election led to all criminal charges being dismissed against all voters.
- United States Department of Justice, 2002-05. As detailed by Lorraine Minnite in an expert report filed as part of litigation, a specialized United States Department of Justice unit formed with the goal of finding instances of federal election fraud examined the 2002 and 2004 federal elections, and were able to prove that 0.00000013 percent of ballots cast were fraudulent. The task force released multiple documents. There was no evidence that any of these incidents involved in-person impersonation fraud. Over a five-year period, they found “no concerted effort to tilt the election.”