Currently Oregon, Washington and Colorado use all-mail voting, with Hawaii set to join them in 2020. Is there a higher incidence of election fraud in these States compared to US States that lack no-excuse mail-in voting (that is, states that require a specific excuse to obtain an absentee ballot)?

I'm mostly looking for research on this subject, rather than hearsay or personal opinion.

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    It's really hard to prove election fraud, measures to secure it are also extremely hard to implement and maintain an anonymous and secret ballot. Combined with the fact neither side is truly interested in figuring out an exact number for voter fraud, studies and reported cases are generally only the most obvious types of fraud. buying ballots with mail in voting is near impossible to detect or catch for example. – Ryathal Dec 11 '19 at 14:42
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    It would seem that mail-in ballots would be more prone to the dreaded voter fraud, but you're asking about the more substantial election fraud. Are you using the terms pretty much interchangeably, or do you want that distinction drawn in the answers? – PoloHoleSet Dec 11 '19 at 15:08
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    I suggest that you change the Q from electoral fraud to voter fraud. An example of electoral fraud is what happened in North Carolina where a party or candidate operative committed the offense, as contrasted with fraudulent actions taken by a voter. – BobE Dec 12 '19 at 3:21

I'd like to predicate this by saying that it is, by definition, impossible to have completely accurate statistics on incidents of something like voter fraud, since voter fraud done "well" is undetected.

I'll also use some data taken from the Heritage Foundation, since they have conducted the majority of the studies on voting fraud. The Heritage Foundation receives a large portion of its funding from organizations who want to prove voter fraud, so I feel that it is important that conclusions be held until a second, independent study verifies their statistics. That being said, here's what I found for the 2016 election.

Oregon reported 24 total cases of voter fraud in the 2016 election, with the majority of those cases involving someone voting in two states by casting two ballots. Some sources report 54, but I'm trying to report per the actual states publishing, as that (hopefully) minimizes bias. The Heritage Foundation did not have any statistics in Oregon for election fraud.

I could not find any statistics on voting fraud in Hawaii. Hawaii is a little bit unique, in that it is sufficiently isolated as to make obtaining this data difficult. The Heritage Foundation reported one civil case involving a woman claiming improper residency, which is not really related to vote by mail.

Colorado reported up to 48 cases of voter fraud in 2016, 10 of which involved one individual casting two ballots, the rest involving someone voting in multiple states. The only incident of Election Fraud reported by the Heritage Foundation in 2016 was for someone improperly forging signatures for an anti-fracking initiative to get it on the ballot. This is not related to vote by mail.

Washington reported 74 cases of possible voter fraud in 2016, 70 of which were prosecuted. The Heritage Foundation had no statistics on Washington for 2016.

The Government Accountability Institute released a 2017 study of voter rolls in 21 states from the 2016 election, accounting for 17% of all possible combinations of interstate voting, looking specifically at duplicate votes between states (easiest to accomplish through vote by mail per the above). They established just under 8500 cases as an estimate for total duplicate voter fraud across those 17 states. Per the study, this is out of a population of 75 million general election voters, establishing a reliable base estimate of 0.0113% voter fraud by duplicate votes.

The populations of Oregon, Colorado, and Washington (the only states where I found statistics for voter fraud) are 4.09 million, 5.54 million, and 7.3 million, respectively. Using the voter fraud data from earlier, these states have an estimated voter fraud rate of 0.0006%, 0.00087%, and 0.001% respectively-- lower than the national average. (these numbers are calculated assuming that all reported incidents of voter fraud were accurate).

An important note on the above figures: That is calculated from the identified voter fraud as self-reported. If we are to assume that voter fraud typically involves voting in two states, then the studies I cited would not be able to identify all incidences of this.

Based on the research above, there does not appear to be any strong evidence that voter fraud is significantly more or less prevalent in states that vote by mail. There also does not appear to be significant evidence of voter fraud at a statistically significant level throughout the United States.

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There is likely a huge underreporting of election fraud - as nobody is seriously trying to detect it.

As a result, the current report rates can't show there is no problem. All we can say is that We don't know whether there is a problem.

Second, there might be only a few dozen known instances of election fraud, the number of guaranteed non-fraud votes is even less. Which leaves a huge range for the actual answer.

So my answer is:

Is there a higher incidence of electoral fraud in states that use all-mail voting?

Nobody knows. Both are somewhere between 0.0001% and 99.9999%.

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    Can you provide a citation for the "huge undereporting" ? Underreporting suggests that there a huge number of incidents of voter fraud but that the agencies that are aware of this huge number as remaining silent (aka not reporting known incidents of fraudulent behavior) and or that the media is suppressing the publication. – BobE Dec 11 '19 at 21:57
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    @BobE: There isn't enough data to meaningfully rule out the possibility that the amount of fraud exceeds by orders of magnitude the amount that is detected. Note that so little fraud is detected that in most elections, even the actual amount of fraud were 1000 times what's detected, it would have no effect despite being "hugely underreported". Some elections, however, are decided by a few dozen votes, and I don't think it's unreasonable to want to make some effort to ensure there's less fraud than that. – supercat Dec 11 '19 at 23:43
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    @supercat No, certainly not, though we need to be careful not to block legitimate voters in an effort to prevent fraudulent ones. Different people can legitimately disagree on how to prioritize those 2 values. – divibisan Dec 12 '19 at 0:44
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    -1 "nobody is seriously trying to detect it."; other than thousands of county clerks and their staff, dozens of SoSs, and countless outside auditors, party officials, and election monitors (federal, local, party and volunteer). There's also database reconciliation, registration purges/re-verification and manual recounts that could detect fraud, especially widespread. Not to mention armchair data sleuths. In short, the idea that "nobody" is ensuring US election integrity is misguided at best and intellectually dishonest at worse. – dandavis Dec 12 '19 at 7:11
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    @Sjoerd it's impossible for a study such as this one to display a maximum, as one cannot disprove a negative. The 'maximum' in that case is the whole population, in the same way that a study to determine the total number of human beings who are secretly aliens from the planet Zuul might conclude that the maximum number is 100% of the human population. We have never been able to, nor will we ever be able to, prove a negative. The burden of proof rests upon those who claim that voter fraud is rampant. – NegativeFriction Dec 12 '19 at 14:42

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