Read more about methods of electoral research

Last week we touched on some of the more common types of electoral fraud in what many would consider being highly democratic nations. Voter intimidation, the misuse of proxy voting and the creation of leading ballot papers are indeed troubling aspects of modern democracies. This week, however, we will be looking at some of the types of election fraud that break the power of democracy entirely.

Broken Systems:

This is more of an over-arching category than a particular type of fraud. It can cover more or less anything from subtly changing the result, announcing different results or interfering in the vote-counting process. For it to be a broken system, electoral fraud must be widespread and carried out by the state. While these systems are already broken, electoral fraud plays a large part in why they are broken in the first place. Democracy relies upon many different pillars to keep its core principles intact. Indeed, for a system to retain its trustworthiness there need to be checks and balances. A free press, an independent judiciary and a clear separation of powers all help keep corruption at bay.

A broken system ultimately comes down to accountability. Having democratic processes may help keep up appearances. However, with no accountability to the public, those in power are able to commit electoral fraud in any way to stay in power.

Ballot Stuffing

When a person casts more than their permitted number of votes. Ballot stuffing is simply placing large numbers of completed ballot papers into the ballot box. Of course, these ballot papers will all denote a certain voting preference. In this way, key districts may vote for or against a particular candidate and impact the outcome of an entire election if widespread. This is a high-level type of electoral fraud is, on the one hand, easy to prevent as individuals need access to ballot papers and need to be alone and unhindered when “stuffing” the ballot boxes. Trustworthy election volunteers help to prevent electoral fraud. However, when volunteers are chosen for their untrustworthiness, democracy has little hope of accountability.

Russia, which has often been accused of electoral fraud has clear glass ballot boxes. It is hoped that this will prevent voters from stuffing the boxes.

Tampering with Votes & the Counting Process

Similarly a significant problem with untrustworthy election helpers or unscrupulous officials. Votes are “miscounted”, destroyed, lost or simply recorded as incorrectly. With traditional paper voting, this form of electoral fraud relies on widespread corruption within the election system. In more modern elections, were voting computers are used, vulnerabilities of outdated voting computers have been exploited by hackers.

“Indeed, you won the elections, but I won the count.”

Anastasio Somoza, former dictator of Nicaragua

Vote Selling / Buying

This type of election fraud is pretty much exactly how it sounds. Voters are offered money or other personal incentives to vote for a particular candidate. Only by education can truly solve this issue, as people need to have the belief that their vote should not be able to be bought. Often, this is more of an issue for high-level politics. In certain regimes, politicians are sponsored to vote for or against a particular piece of legislation by lobbying groups. Lobbying is not illegal, though many people regard it as underhand tactics by interest groups to unfairly influence political decision making.

Indeed, in the recent elections in Somalia, the MPs were not allowed cameras or smartphones into the voting booths. Photographs could be used as evidence that they had voted for a particular presidential candidate. 

Read our last entry into the world of Electoral Fraud