I've recently been quite shocked to learn that in the US there is a serious amount of election fraud - at least in the presidential elections. Are there any numbers on the magnitude of this?

I am deliberately not limiting this question to specific types of fraud, since there is quite a number of them, and I would be grateful to know about at least semi-serious calculations to estimate their effect, whether individually or all together. Examples are as follows.

  • There is the design problem that it is completely unimportant whether 51% or 100% of the voters of a state vote for a candidate. I am aware that it is quite debatable to call this "fraud", but I am inclined to include this since it contradicts the equality of all votes as demanded by the human rights charta.
  • Perhaps the worst problem: the introduction of loads of intransparent voting computers. These are often manufactured by Republican controlled companies, and there is not much of a chance of noticing flipping or miscounting votes. It is hard to verify those (but should not be!), but there are hints that there is something seriously wrong. The "red shift" - a statistically highly significant discrepancy between the official election results and polls done on the exit of the voting place - could prove this, but such polls are partially deliberately blocked or performed by the media without reliable disclosure if the results. (See also this question.)

There are also some troublesome things that do have an influence on the outcome, but cannot exactly be called fraud unless you somehow manage to prove malicious intent. The magnitude of their effect would be very interesting, nevertheless.

  • The voting is held on tuesday such that many poor people have problems attending. Similar effects might have the sometimes several hours long queues at voting booths in poorer districts.
  • Gerrymandering, Caging
  • sometimes loosing hundreds of thousands of absentee ballots
  • Super PACs that can intransparently spend unlimited money on political campaigns.

EDIT: This question was heavily edited to try to accomodate comments

  • 2
    Excellent question, which would become even stronger if some of the sub-claims would be subjected to the scrutiny of Skeptics SE.
    – gerrit
    Jan 27 '13 at 20:52
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    I don't think there's any real data. Since ID's are not required and no real verification of votes exists, I believe the potential for fraud is enormous, but how much of it actually exists we'll never know because its not in the politicians' best interests.
    – user1413
    Jan 27 '13 at 21:57
  • 4
    Well, you might want to remove the 51%-100% comment from the question. It isn't "fraud", it is just they way the system works (and everyone is aware, or should be). The republican manufactured voting machines is just conjecture, you have shown no evidence of miss counting/flipping. I think it would be best to focus on a single type of fraud, since all fraud is really broad.
    – user1873
    Jan 28 '13 at 3:08
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    I happen to agree almost entirely with the opinions expressed above, but I'm voting to close because it's a fairly transparent attempt to dress a polemic up as a question.
    – user97
    Jan 28 '13 at 13:37
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    -1. None of then things you describe are 'election fraud'. They may be manipulative and unfair, but they are all legal and so not fraud. With a rewrite I could be persuaded to change my vote. Jan 28 '13 at 14:37

By and large, election fraud, to the extent that it exists, should still be characterised as anecdotal, rather than widespread.

This article, for example, points out a few supposed irregularities in the Ohio vote. Another advocacy group True The Vote, purports a more wholistic approach to reporting, but again, I would argue that these "facts" should be considered "truthy" rather than Truth(TM).

I say this both as a former voter registrar and as a Republican - certain interests (namely Republicans) have a vested interest in promoting the perception that election fraud is widespread. So-called "voter ID" laws are seen by some as an "attempt to disenfanchise voters" for whom obtaining proper identification would pose an "undue burden." Put another way, some people think that mean-spirited Republicans want to keep poor Democrats who can't afford the time off to renew their Drivers license from voting, thus decreasing Democratic turnout. In contrast, Republicans tend to claim high election fraud, they say, out of of pure motives to keep elections "fair and balanced."

Full Disclosure: I think both sides have some validity, but my personal experience is that the whole issue is overblown on both sides.

The truth is that most elections are won with margins of more than 1%, and very few outlets think that voter fraud exceeds 1%. Is any fraud bad? Of course. And, there are no numbers that show systematic bias of voter fraud towards either party. Realistically speaking, in the United States, there is very little evidence that what discrepancies do exist would regularly change the outcome of elections.

Again, are there races decided by a single vote or two? Sure. Indeed, one can honestly and accurately say that the election of George W. Bush hinged on 537 votes in Florida. But these are the exceptions, not the norm.

  • 1
    Regarding democrats thinking republicans are 'mean spirted' and 'attempting to disenfranchise voters', that's not necessarily a misrepresentation at all: thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/08/28/… (granted that became news after this answer was created)
    – user1530
    Jan 4 '16 at 22:39
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    "Anecdotal" is neither the opposite or even a proper comparative of "widespread". Something could be both anecdotal and widepread, or neither.
    – agc
    Mar 1 '17 at 14:14
  • Except when you actually ask black people- for them ID particular a driver license is essential already. A lot of fraud on both sides of the political divide. Mar 21 '18 at 8:28
  • This answer incorrectly conflates voter fraud and electoral fraud. "Voter fraud" is the process by which a voter fraudulently votes (i.e. someone who is not eligible to vote casts a vote, or votes twice, etc). Republican Voter ID laws target this sort of fraud (which I agree is entirely overblown, intending to suppress likely Democratic voters). "Electoral fraud", on the other hand, is fraud in which the election itself is rigged in some way (for example, if votes were to be flipped, miscounted, or perhaps registered voters intentional purged from voter rolls to prevent them from voting).
    – C. Helling
    Aug 10 '18 at 15:50

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