The Heritage Foundation, an American Conservative think tank, has recently published a report listing over a thousand individuals who committed voter fraud:

The United States has a long and unfortunate history of election fraud. The Heritage Foundation is providing a list of election fraud cases from across the country, broken down by state, where individuals were either convicted of vote fraud, or where a judge overturned the results of an election. This is not an exhaustive list but simply a sampling that demonstrates the many different ways in which fraud is committed. Preventing, deterring, and prosecuting such fraud is essential to protecting the integrity of our voting process.


This is at odds with other sources such as Politifact, which states

News 21, a national investigative reporting project funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, found 150 alleged cases of double voting, 56 cases of noncitizens voting, and 10 cases of voter impersonation across all elections from 2000 to 2011. Many of these allegations never led to charges, while others were acquitted or dismissed.

Justin Levitt, a professor at Loyola Law School and an expert on voter fraud, found an even smaller number: 31 credible incidents out of more than 1 billion votes cast from 2000 to 2014.

The Washington Post makes similar claims, with regards to the 2016 election

There have been just four documented cases of voter fraud in the 2016 election

There wasn't evidence of widespread voter fraud before the election. There isn't evidence of widespread voter fraud afterward, either. In fact, there's not evidence of even modest voter fraud.

These sources seem to be contradictory. Have there truly been 1,071 proven cases of voter fraud?

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    It should be noted that one large category of "fraud" is felons voting when their right to vote has been withdrawn due to being on probation. Mostly these folks appear to commit "fraud" because they are simply unaware that they are ineligible to vote. Similarly, a lot of "fraud" is the result of confusion with absentee ballots, etc. Commented Jul 24, 2017 at 19:00
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    @Alexander one of the 1,071 cases involved "100,000 fraudulent ballots".
    – DavePhD
    Commented Jul 24, 2017 at 20:06
  • 4
    To the earlier comments regarding the impact: the OP asked about the truth of the claim, not the impact. If they were asking about the impact, it would have been off topic.
    – Cliff AB
    Commented Jul 25, 2017 at 4:39

2 Answers 2


The sources are not contradictory.

The time period being considered needs to be understood.

Heritage is going back to about 1982 (except for one earlier case from 1948 as Antlersoft and Nat point out!). For example:

In 1982, 27 individuals participated in an illegal scheme to boost Honolulu voter registrations for candidate Ross Segawa. Segawa was convicted on 10 counts of election fraud, criminal solicitation, and evidence tampering. Segawa served a year in prison and was expelled from law school. State Sen. Clifford Uwaine was convicted of conspiring to illegally register voters and served three months in jail; and Debra Kawaoka, an aide to Uwaine who also played a part in the false registration, served numerous weekends in prison. Brian Minaai and the other students each pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor.


A DOJ investigation of the Illinois election in 1982 estimated that 100,000 fraudulent ballots were cast in the gubernatorial primary. The investigation was tipped off by a party worker from Chicago’s 39th Ward who was upset by his precinct captain’s broken promise to award him a city job for his participation in the vote fraud scheme. The conspirators cast ballots for people who were elderly and disabled. The investigation resulted in 63 individuals being convicted, the largest voter fraud case in DOJ history.


Vander Beatty, a former New York state senator, was convicted of multiple criminal charges, including forgery and conspiracy, in relation to election fraud. He led others in a scheme to forge hundreds of voter registration cards to challenge the result of the 1982 congressional primary that he lost. He was sentenced to 16 months in prison and fined $5,000.

The categories of fraud need to be considered.

Heritage is considering many types of fraud. Specifically:

IMPERSONATION FRAUD AT THE POLLS: Voting in the name of other legitimate voters and voters who have died, moved away, or lost their right to vote because they are felons, but remain registered.

FALSE REGISTRATIONS: Voting under fraudulent voter registrations that either use a phony name and a real or fake address or claim residence in a particular jurisdiction where the registered voter does not actually live and is not entitled to vote.

DUPLICATE VOTING: Registering in multiple locations and voting in the same election in more than one jurisdiction or state.

FRAUDULENT USE OF ABSENTEE BALLOTS: Requesting absentee ballots and voting without the knowledge of the actual voter; or obtaining the absentee ballot from a voter and either filling it in directly and forging the voter’s signature or illegally telling the voter who to vote for.

BUYING VOTES: Paying voters to cast either an in-person or absentee ballot for a particular candidate.

ILLEGAL “ASSISTANCE” AT THE POLLS: Forcing or intimidating voters—particularly the elderly, disabled, illiterate, and those for whom English is a second language—to vote for particular candidates while supposedly providing them with “assistance.”

INELIGIBLE VOTING: Illegal registration and voting by individuals who are not U.S. citizens, are convicted felons, or are otherwise not eligible to vote.

ALTERING THE VOTE COUNT: Changing the actual vote count either in a precinct or at the central location where votes are counted.

BALLOT PETITION FRAUD: Forging the signatures of registered voters on the ballot petitions that must be filed with election officials in some states for a candidate or issue to be listed on the official ballot.

For comparison, the News21 source (2012) relied upon by Politifact says:

The nation has 2,068 cases of alleged election fraud since 2000. By category, Unknown had the highest percentage of accused at 31 percent (645 cases), followed by Voters at 31 percent (633 cases). The most prevalent fraud was Absentee Ballot Fraud at 24 percent (491 cases). The status of most cases was Pleaded at 27 percent (558 cases).

So, while Politifact may portray the News21 source differently, its database contains more cases than Heritage in a shorter period of time, and includes 648 case where someone pleaded guilty or was otherwise convicted, plus 213 consent orders, in the 2000-2012 time period, plus additional cases of pending or unknown outcome.

Similarly, the list of 31 cases from Professor Justin Levitt is from 2000 to 2014, and is limited only to:

Credible allegations of potential fraud since 2000 that might have been prevented by a rule requiring ID at the polls

  • 11
    Page 9's got a sheriff election, p.117's got a school board election, p.132's got a school superintendent election... jeeze this looks thorough!
    – Nat
    Commented Jul 24, 2017 at 15:25
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    Also the Heritage list includes many items that would be dismissed by the other lists: it includes incidents going back to 1948, when people trying to register African-American voters were routinely accused of fraud to enforce Jim Crow. It includes things that are election dirty tricks but aren't voter fraud: robocalls to people telling them not to vote.
    – antlersoft
    Commented Jul 24, 2017 at 15:30
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    @antlersoft Paul Schurick was convicted of election fraud for the robocalls reuters.com/article/…
    – DavePhD
    Commented Jul 24, 2017 at 15:56
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    @DavePhD -- Yes, and lots of "election fraud" does not fall into the definition of "voter fraud" used by the other researchers-- who each state the definitions they use.
    – antlersoft
    Commented Jul 24, 2017 at 16:00
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    A note on the most common kind of actual fraud: Absentee voter fraud. In most states an absentee vote must be notarized. I know of at least once case where officials were "caught" accepting non-notarized absentee votes. They could very well have been doing this out of ignorance/incompetence, not malice. However, it has to get treated seriously, as otherwise this would be a good way to slip in a nearly unlimited amount of fake votes. There are periodically people who attempt this. Usually they are friends/relatives of someone running for a local office.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Jul 24, 2017 at 18:33

The problem is the Heritage Foundation is redefining "voter fraud" when the accepted definition does not match with their narrative. To be fair, they use the correct term of "election fraud" which is much broader, but then they introduce it as relevant to a discussion about voter ID and voter fraud.

Usually, when claims like that are made, analysis finds that most of what they refer to are "voter registration" issues, which is a completely different matter. If they are counting "election fraud" where those in charge of administering the elections and tallying the vote counts try to cook the system, then that is yet a completely different category of activities, as well.

When it comes to actually casting ineligible votes, it's also noteworthy that most often they are by felons who are unaware that they are still ineligible to vote (states differ on whether and for how long ex-convicts are still not allowed to vote after having been released from prison). That's noteworthy because if I say "I'm PoloHoleSet, here's my ID" - which confirms my identity, and I try to vote when I'm ineligible, that's not something that would be prevented by a voter ID, especially if I supply a valid voter ID.

I note this because these statistics are often trotted out when defending restrictive voter ID legislation, despite that they are citing, almost exclusively, cases that are unrelated to identification and would not be prevented by those laws.

A News21 analysis four years ago of 2,068 alleged election-fraud cases in 50 states found that while some fraud had occurred since 2000, the rate of infinitesimal compared with the 146 million registered voters in that 12-year span. The analysis found about 10 cases of voter impersonation, the only kind of fraud that could be prevented by voter ID at the polls.

This year a review of cases in Arizona, Georgia, Kansas, Ohio, and Txas and where politicians have expressed concern about voter fraud, found hundreds of allegations but few prosecutions between 2012 and 2016. Attorneys general in those states successfully prosecuted 38 cases,though other cases may have been litigated at the county level.

At least a third of those cases involved nonvoters, such as election officials or volunteers. None of the cases prosecuted was for voter impersonation.

USA Today: Little evidence of voter fraud in key voter ID states

  • Wow, is it really the case that one is not allowed to vote while in jail and even years afterwards, and this automatically (i.e., not only as additional punishment in very specific cases)? I'm just asking cause that would mean that an administration somehow instructing or encouraging the police to perform more intense controls of citizens of some ethnic group known to be more in support of their political opponents, could keep their sinecure for an unjustified duration ... Commented Jul 25, 2017 at 17:59
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    @HagenvonEitzen - I think if it's a matter of voting because of a mistake in eligibility (they should not allow them to vote, so it's not entirely the fault of the ex-convict), it's usually not such a serious offense that they wind up going back to jail for it. The big problem is the huge variety. Two states even allow felons to vote while they are still incarcerated. In three states they permanently lose their right to ever vote again. ncsl.org/research/elections-and-campaigns/… Commented Jul 25, 2017 at 18:58

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