Election fraud is indeed one of the darker sides of democracy. Read on to learn more about some of the most common types of election fraud that you may encounter in your voting career.
Election Fraud: High & Low-level
Election fraud is a topic that fortunately isn’t often talked about in large parts of the West. The majority of our citizens tend to trust the establishment to a large extent. We are privileged to have decades of experience, building up trust within the electoral system and consequences for those who break the rules. We’ve all seen politicians change, step down and even get impeached. Numerous checks and balances are placed on politicians, independent watchdogs on elections and, for many positions, a limit to the number of terms in office.
We have to, therefore, make the distinction between high-level and low-level election fraud. We’ll be looking at some of the larger scale, and less frequent, examples of election fraud around the world in a later blog. Today we’re covering the types of fraud we are more likely to come into contact with.
Voter intimidation comes in many forms. In essence: violence and the threat of violence against voters or communities unless they vote a certain way. Imagine 1920s style gangsters promising to bring misery to a community unless a certain candidate is elected, or heavy set thugs watching you cast your vote.
On the other end of the spectrum, intimidation can simply be limiting an eligible voter’s eligibility to vote – especially amongst particular communities. Indeed, this form of intimidation has been commonplace even in the US – with specific laws established to protect voters from harassment at the polls. The Voting Rights Act (1965) and the Klu Klux Klan Act (1871) are two particularly striking examples. This type of fraud is also known as “voter suppression”.
Misuse of Proxy Voting
Proxy voting is simply where someone delegates a third party to vote on their behalf. This is immediately open for manipulation. Voters, often older or more vulnerable members of society are placing their trust in their proxy voters. Usually, proxies are family members but voter fraud has been recorded when hospice or nursing home workers have exploited their power to change the original voting preferences.
There is often legislation that has been created to combat proxy voting fraud. Limiting the number of proxy votes an individual is assigned is hoped to reduce the damage caused by proxy voting. Online voting is a perfect alternative to proxy voters. Voters can use any computer, tablet or smartphone to cast their votes and don’t have to rely on a proxy.
Leading Ballot Papers
Leading ballot papers are not quite electoral fraud in the legal sense. Fair ballot papers are, however, crucial aspects of free and fair elections. Imagine the Brexit ballot paper reading “Is leaving the EU a bad idea”. Alternatively, a candidate election where only one candidate has a bio and a picture. These are extreme and unrealistic examples. Often this type of fraudulent behavior is more subtle. For instance, including certain words leading in favor or against certain issues, or simply putting a certain candidate at the top of the page.
Up Next: High-Level Election Fraud – Corruption, Lobbying and Broken Systems