Just the Facts on Fraud

May 2017 2 min read by David Becker

Six months after the election, there’s still discussion about the extent to which voter fraud exists and whether the White House will follow through with an investigation. In the meantime, election officials across the country have been quietly doing their jobs and are wrapping up investigations from the last election while preparing for the next. The reviews to date confirm what most election officials have been publicly stating for some time – that while the amount of actual voter fraud is not zero, it’s very close, with only an infinitesimal number of cases of potential voter fraud nationwide.

Several states have released the results of their inquiries. One of the most comprehensive analyses was conducted by Secretary of State Jon Husted (R) in Ohio. After comparing voter data to files from the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles, Secretary Husted’s office found that 385 non-citizens were registered to vote, and identified 82 of these non-citizens as possibly having voted, referring those cases for further investigation to confirm whether they voted and if fraud occurred.

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla (D) also reviewed complaints about potential fraud, finding 89 cases sufficient to warrant further investigation by authorities. Of these cases, 56 allege double voting and 16 allege fraudulent voter registration. Other allegations have nothing to do with potential voter fraud, but rather wrongdoing by candidates, petition circulators and others who work in elections.

Another good example is Tennessee, where Secretary of State Tre Hargett (R) has supervised the effort. His office found a total of 42 instances of possible voter fraud meriting further investigation in all of 2016, including 18 instances of felons voting, 9 instances of double voting, and 1 instance of a non-citizen voting.

Finally, the North Carolina State Board of Elections recently released its Post-Election Audit Report, which detailed its findings regarding possible voter fraud in the state during the 2016 election cycle. The bipartisan state board found that there was no evidence of ballot stuffing or tampering with the election equipment, and found a total of 67 cases total of potential voting by non-citizens, double-voting, or voter impersonation, combined, with an additional 61 cases of possible non-citizen voting under review. Importantly, as a result of their review of the evidence, the State Board confirmed that 34 voters initially flagged as non-citizens were actually documented citizens.

It’s important to note that in each of these states and others, these numbers do not represent actual voter fraud– only instances where the evidence suggests further investigation by law enforcement is warranted. The number of cases that deserve actual prosecution is likely to be significantly lower. After similar investigations in 2012 and 2014, only a total of eight people were prosecuted for voter fraud in Ohio.

Election officials in virtually every state conduct investigations regularly, and data help contextualize the degree to which voter fraud is a problem in the United States. Voter fraud was once again extremely rare in 2016, thanks to the efforts of election officials across the country. Where a case of voter fraud made it past those protections, it is being investigated, and where appropriate, prosecuted.

State Possible Fraudulent Votes
Cast in 2016
Total Ballots Cast
In 2016
Percentage of Possible Fraudulent Votes
Out of Total Ballots Cast
California 72 14,610,509 0.0005%
North Carolina 128 4,769,640 0.003%
Ohio 82 5,607,641 0.001%
Tennessee 42 ~4,300,000 ~0.001%

Approximately one out of five ballots cast in November were cast in these four states, and as the table above demonstrates, very few cases of possible fraud have been found during post-election investigations.

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