Only 31 instances of impersonation fraud found in a billion ballots cast, election experts report

Election

(AP Photo/Javier Fergo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Instances of fraud in both in-person and mail-in voting are “extremely rare,” election experts at the nonpartisan public policy organization Brennan Center report.

Justin Levitt, a law professor at Loyola University and fellow at the Brennan Center, says he found only 31 instances of impersonation fraud out of one billion ballots cast between 2000 and 2014.

Impersonation fraud occurs when a voter claims the identity of another person at the polls, and has been cited as a concern by the Trump administration.

“Empirical research shows that although in-person impersonation fraud is an occurrence of extraordinary rarity, it has been used to justify policies that appear to offer little benefit,” Levitt testified back in 2008 in front of the US Senate Committee on Rules and Administration. “The existing safeguards and deterrents have been successful in preventing in-person impersonation fraud to any significant degree.”

Data regarding mail-in voting shows a similar picture.

In the 2016 general election, election officials rejected 8,247 mail-in ballots because the voter appeared to also vote in-person, approximately 0.00006 percent of the more than 135.5 million ballots cast. 

Across the country and in Texas, top officials have rejected calls to expand mail-in voting due to the COVID-19 pandemic, citing concerns of fraud. President Trump has repeatedly cast doubt on the legitimacy of mail-in voting, and Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick has called attempts to expand the option a “scam.”

“This is a scam by the Democrats to steal the election,” Patrick told Fox News in May. “There will be Democrat activists going out there to find people and say, ‘Hey, by the way, you got your ballot. Pay you 10 bucks. Can I handle it for you?’ This will destroy America if we allow it to happen.”

There is no evidence for these claims.

All 50 states employ rigorous safeguards to ensure mailed ballots are legitimate. Each state requires a voter to sign an affidavit with their mailed ballot, and some collect more personal information to compare with information on file.

Mail-in voting has been utilized in the United States since the 1860s, and nearly one in four voters voted by mail in 2016. Some states such as Oregon, Colorado, Hawaii, Utah, and Washington hold their elections primarily by mail, and they report extraordinarily few cases of fraud. Of the 100 million ballots Oregon has sent out since 2000, the state has found only 12 to be fraudulent.

In Texas, an eligible voter may request a mail-in ballot if they are 65 or older, disabled, out of the country on Election Day and during the early voting period, or confined in jail. The Texas Supreme Court ruled in May that concerns regarding COVID-19 do not automatically qualify an applicant for a mail-in ballot, yet counties are not required to verify claims of disability.

Travis County makes this distinction clear on their website, specifying that “A voter who requests a mail ballot on the grounds of disability will be accepted as eligible… the voter does not have to declate the nature of the underlying disability. The elected officials have placed in the hands of the voter the determination of whether in-person voting will cause a likelihood of injury.” 

Travis County voters must request a mail-in ballot from the County Clerk no later than Oct. 23 and may either return it to the Travis County Election Division by mail at 5501 Airport Boulevard or hand-deliver it to three locations

“I know there are many concerns right now regarding mail-in ballots being received in time,” Travis County Clerk Dana Debeauvoir said in a video message. “If you are worried your ballot won’t be received in time, you have options… My office is committed to ensuring safe and fair elections.”

The deadline to apply for a mail-in ballot is Oct. 23, yet counties are urging voters to apply and vote as soon as possible to accommodate expected delays due to an increase in demand for mailed ballots.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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