POLYAS Election Glossary

We provide explanations and background information on elections, voting rights and digital democracy

Election Fraud

Voter fraud, electoral fraud or vote rigging are intentional, illegal actions aimed at changing or influencing or forcing the results of an election - by either depressing or increasing the vote share for a particular candidate or choice.

Types of Election Fraud:

  • Intimidation: Where people have pressure placed on them to vote for a particular candidate or option. This pressure can take the form of violence or the threat of violence to force individuals or communities to vote for a particular candidate, or not vote at all. Intimidation can also take the form of persuading voters that they are or may not be eligible to vote, or that they are legally obliged to vote for a particular candidate.
  • Vote Buying: Voters are compensated with cash or other benefits for voting for a particular candidate or choice. In the recent Somalian Presidential Elections, voters were forbidden to take any cameras or camera phones into the polling place, ensuring that they could not prove to vote buyers that they had voted for a particular candidate.
  • Voter Impersonation: Voters are, without consent, impersonated by fraudsters who use their credentials to vote for a particular candidate.
  • Misuse of proxy voting: Differs to voter impersonation in that it is done with the voter's knowledge.
  • Leading Ballot Papers (or Confusing Ballot papers): Where ballot papers are formulated to lead voters into voting for a particular choice or candidate. This is an aspect of every election that election managers have to watch out for and while not always illegal, leading ballot papers can draw harsh criticisms for undermining the principles of democracy.
  • Ballot Stuffing: Where ballot papers denoting a particular choice are "stuffed" into the ballot box in large quantities to swing the result in a particular direction.
  • Miscounting or destruction of votes & tampering with recording equipment: Where ballots for a particular candidate are destroyed or miscounted. Similarly, some voting computers have been shown to be open to election fraud, by changing their counting mechanisms.
  • Artificial Results: Prevalent in countries with high-level corruption, election officials announce the result for a particular candidate or decision, regardless of what the electorate actually voted for.
See also: Absentee Voting, Hanging Chad, Regulation

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