Since swing states are often the deciding factor in US presidential elections, why don't Democrat or Republican partisans register and vote in swing states? Or perhaps they are already doing so and it's already part of the US election traditions?

Looking at https://www.ncsl.org/research/elections-and-campaigns/voter-id.aspx#Details (mirror), it seems one can simply use one's passport when voting, and looking at one example of vote registration form (I took New Jersey as an example), one is supposed to have only stay in the state 30 days (mirror) before the registration and I'm not even sure whether it is really checked since it seems SSN is enough to register (mirror). Staying somewhere a few weeks (or perhaps less) in a swing state to vote there sounds like something some Democrat or Republican partisans could do. Or did I miss something?

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    What do you mean? Every state has partisans on both sides, and they will be voting in their home states.
    – Joe C
    Commented Nov 7, 2020 at 21:34
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    @JoeC I mean: don't vote in your typical home state but instead stay a few weeks (or perhaps less) in a swing state to vote there. Commented Nov 7, 2020 at 21:37
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    @DavidHammen Thanks, I didn't mean party registration, but simply vote registration, if needs be. Commented Nov 7, 2020 at 21:46
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    In the 🇬🇧UK there was an open campaign for students and people to live on boats to register temporarily in a voting district where their vote matters. Commented Nov 9, 2020 at 9:56
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    30 days may be a reasonable vacation for ordinary folk in some places, but here in the states, spending 30 days somewhere would be a crushing economic hardship for most. Also, 99% of people here only care enough about politics to shoot their neighbors over, but not enough to drive several hours into another state.
    – Him
    Commented Nov 9, 2020 at 21:35

5 Answers 5


Simply put, because it is a crime. It is not allowed (e.g. in Minnesota) to move somewhere for a month to vote there. Plus, most people can't afford such a disruption to their life.

When I registered to vote in Minnesota, I got a letter from my old state asking to confirm I'm no longer resident there (and reminded me if I had indeed moved, it was illegal to vote in my old state). So states do talk to each other, and would probably notice if I re-registered multiple times within a few months.

Yes, you could probably get away with it in some states. But to swing a state, you would have to convince thousands of people to commit a crime in order to most likely not affect the outcome. You could not openly organize thousands of people to move somewhere temporarily in order to swing a state because, again, it's a crime.

Finally, if you do move just to vote, that means you don't get to vote locally. In many cases, giving up your right to vote in the actual town/county/district you actually live in is not worth faking living somewhere for a month to commit a crime.

There was a website put up after the 2016 election that helped you find the closest swing district to you, so you could maybe move and flip a House rep, but I can't find that tool any more.

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    You can only vote in the state of your primary residence. This is also why politicains vote in their home states and not as part of Washington DC, despite owning second residences there and staying in DC for large chunks of the year. Besides, it is very much worth voting in the state of your primary residence, since the local elections will have much more of a direct impact on you. Even if you manage to vote in a swing state, you suddenly cannot vote for your governer, state congress, town council/mayor/commissioners and ballot measures such as tax/funding measures. It's not worth it.
    – Ellesedil
    Commented Nov 8, 2020 at 9:18
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    Also bear in mind that changing your residence impacts on things like taxes, if you take up residence in a new state you would be expected to file and pay taxes there. It would be a LOT of work for one single vote.
    – Ivan McA
    Commented Nov 8, 2020 at 17:10
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    Yes, that is the question I answered. Commented Nov 8, 2020 at 23:32
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    That link makes it look like it is legal to move to Minnesota 20 days before registering or voting.
    – Jetpack
    Commented Nov 9, 2020 at 15:33
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    But the reason why people don't do this is because nobody wants to legitimately move somewhere to swing one vote. Moving is expensive and stressful. As another answer points out, the grand you can easily spend on moving would be far more effective as a donation to a candidate or PAC. Commented Nov 9, 2020 at 16:50

The stakes have to be higher than just a presidential election. This DID happen in U.S., prior to the Civil War, in Bleeding Kansas (from Wikipedia):


Missouri, a slave state since 1821, was populated by many settlers with Southern sympathies and pro-slavery views, some of whom tried to influence the decision by entering Kansas and claiming to be residents. The conflict was fought politically as well as between civilians, where it eventually degenerated into brutal gang violence and paramilitary guerrilla warfare. The term "Bleeding Kansas" was popularized by Horace Greeley's New York Tribune

but Nebraska and Kansas were swing stages for control of the balance of slave states and free states in congress.

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    Good answer. The practice is also more impactful when the population is small, as a relatively small number of people can have a very large effect. In an 1854 election, just a couple of thousand of individuals fraudulently voting in Kansas were enough to outnumber the legal votes by 2:1 - this would require many, many more people to pull off nowadays. Commented Nov 9, 2020 at 17:14

Around $11 billion was spent on presidential campaigns. While that sounds like a lot, that works out to less than $100 per voters. It would cost most people more than $100 to move to a battleground state. Their money would be more efficiently spent by giving it to the candidate of their choice, or to a political action committee (PAC) supporting them.

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    If they spend $100 on advertising per voter, that doesn't mean they can buy an extra vote for $100 - probably not even for $5,000. Most voters have already made up their mind to the extent that no amount of paid advertising will swing them. Commented Nov 8, 2020 at 6:23
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    I don't think this casual relationship actually works like you're making it out to be. Let's assume, to make things easy, that Biden spent 5.5 billion and Trump spent 5.5 billion. Are you saying that if Trump instead spent 11 billion, he'd be able to get twice the votes? How would that actually happen?
    – Ellesedil
    Commented Nov 8, 2020 at 9:22
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    @user3153372 Interesting to compare $100 with the maximum legal spend by each candidate per voter in the UK, which is less than $1. Maybe the US should spend a few $bn improving the electoral process (e.g. speed of vote counting) instead of wasting it on media advertising! (In the 2017 UK general election, the total spend of 75 political parties and 18 independent campaign groups was less than £50m.)
    – alephzero
    Commented Nov 8, 2020 at 16:36
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    @user3153372 I think you misunderstand the purpose of such advertising. It is designed and intended to sway no one. What it is designed and intended to do is to inspire you to hate the other side with such intensity (or remind you that you already do) that you will definitely turn up to vote no matter how lukewarm you are about the compromise candidate your party ran. Commented Nov 8, 2020 at 18:33
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    @JaredSmith Yes, a problem which could be solved by abolishing the two-party system. After all, you can't make a voter hate 7 out of 8 parties in one ad, without hurting your own party as well.
    – Mast
    Commented Nov 9, 2020 at 6:54

In the 1980s the Rajneeshee cult attempted this on a much smaller scale in Wasco County, Oregon. That's the classic cultists in orange robes while their aloof leadership drives around in Rolls-Royces. They weren't partisan in your sense, but they illustrate how it can be done, and how it can be stopped.

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Rajneesh and thousands of his followers moved to Wasco County with a population of just 22,000. They incorporated themselves into the city of Rajneeshpuram, zip code 97741. Further expansion of Rajneeshpuram was mired in legal conflict with claims that it was essentially property of a religious organization and its incorporation violated separation of church and state, as well as investigations into immigration violations.

They looked to the nearby tiny town of Antelope, Oregon (population then about 50). The cultists purchased lots in Antelope, registered to vote, and took over the town government by overwhelming the small number of local residents. Now they had a more legitimate town government to work with and renamed the town Rajneesh.

Facing further local and state backlash, they turned to influencing the November 1984 Wasco County election. Their plan was to control the county by getting their members elected to a majority of the County commissioners as well as the sheriff. They attempted to get candidates on the ballot, but failed to get sufficient valid signatures.

Wasco County was too large to take over directly as with Antelope. Many of the commune's members were not US citizens. Oregon only required 20-days of residency before being allowed to vote. The commune attempted to boost their voter registration with a "Share-a-Home" program; they brought in thousands of houseless people to live in Rajneeshpuram and tried to get them to register them to vote. Many refused and left, citing an atmosphere of brain-washing and feeling they had been tricked. A month before the election County Clerk Sue Proffitt, citing evidence of fraud, halted new registrations. Oregon Secretary of State Norma Paulus required new voter registrations to have a hearing in the county seat. At the cut-off date for registration, the Rajneeshees halted their imports of houseless people.

At the first hearing just 14 voters of about 200 were registered. At the second hearing they didn't show up. They Rajneeshees decided to boycott the election. The effort had failed.

Instead, the Rajneeshpuram tested their backup plan: make enough voters sick so they won't show up to vote. They cultured Salmonella and made "test runs" poisoning two county commissioners, spreading it throughout grocery stores, court houses, and salad bars sickening and hospitalizing hundreds of people. Fortunately there were no fatalities. This only boosted voter participation to keep the cultists out.

The Rajneesh leadership fled to Europe. They were extradited from West Germany and sentence to 20-years, but were released after 3 and moved to Switzerland. The mayor of Rajneeshpuram turned state's evidence. The Rajneesh himself outed their crimes claiming he was unaware at the time; he was arrested on immigration crimes and deported. He died in 1990 in India.

This was the first and largest bioterror attack in the US.

Going back to the question, it illustrates some of the powers county clerks and secretaries of state have to combat overt voter fraud via registration.



There have absolutely been attempts to do that. See for example the Free State Project: https://www.fsp.org/

However, it appears that most people do not value political outcomes enough to upend their lives around them.

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    FSP is different, in that it was a commitment to actually move to a state, permanently, in order to influence its politics. OP was asking about temporarily registering to vote in a state to swing it in a presidential election. Commented Nov 10, 2020 at 3:07

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