Donald Trump has been fulminating about Twitter fact-checking this claim:

There is NO WAY (ZERO!) that Mail-In Ballots will be anything less than substantially fraudulent. Mail boxes will be robbed, ballots will be forged & even illegally printed out & fraudulently signed. The Governor of California is sending Ballots to millions of people, anyone.....

As far as I can tell his objection to being fact-checked is that the mainstream media sources are all his opponents and can't be trusted. Media supporters of Trump seem to agree with him. Tucker Carlson (quoted in the Washington Examiner) argues, for example, that:

I don’t care what Twitter tells you. That’s true. It’s obvious. And by the way, it’s been documented. … It’s not a theoretical risk. Actual voter fraud has happened despite what they tell you all over the country.

There are several claims in the tweet. But the main one is that mail-in ballots will be substantially fraudulent. As far as i can tell nobody doubts that it has happened, as have other forms of voting fraud (or potential fraud with very hackable electronic voting systems which doesn't seem to be a cause of worry for Trump). Carlson supports the Trump narrative by quoting some actual examples (but, since they were all examples where it was detected and led to prosecution, it isn't clear that this explains how the existing ways of preventing it are flawed).

So the claim here is not whether mail-in voting fraud exists but whether it is substantial. Is it?

PS I'm not an american. I only know the rules around mail voting in the UK, which are pretty strict around identity verification. It would be useful if answers provided useful background about US systems, how much they are used, how long they have been used, what the rules are to prevent fraud and how much actual fraud has been detected.


2 Answers 2


The root issue at play is the drive by several states to begin "All-Mail Voting". Instead of visiting polling places to vote, registered voters would be mailed ballots to be sent back.

From the article on All-Mail Voting on Ballotpedia

Five states – Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah, and Washington – conduct what are commonly referred to as all-mail elections. In these states, voting is conducted primarily, although not necessarily exclusively, by mail.

Additionally, 17 other states have adopted temporary measures due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Heritage Foundation, an American conservative think tank, maintains a list of criminal cases it considers voter fraud[note 1]. While this may not be from a non-partisan or unbiased source (Heritage describes itself as conservative, Media Bias Fact Check rates them as Right Wing), this information is being relied upon by the White House, as evidenced by This Report from The Heritage Foundation being hosted and referenced on WhiteHouse.gov.

For more information on this particular PDF please see the the question Are there “1,071 Proven Cases of Voter Fraud”?

Examining the Heritage database hosted at https://www.heritage.org/voterfraud and examining the five states that have All-Mail Voting under all categories for this section. The cases which involved fraudulently casting mail-in ballots for other voters are as follows. [note 2]

Colorado - 4 cases [note 3]

  • Toni Lee Newbill in 2013 and 2016, voting using her deceased father's name in the 2013 state elections and the 2016 RNC primary
  • Winston Keys in 2005, voting using his deceased mother's name in the 2005 state elections
  • Sarilu Sosa-Sanchez in 2013, voting using her deceased mother's name in the 2013 state elections
  • Steve Curtis in 2016, voting using his ex-wife's name in the 2016 presidential elections

Hawaii - 0 cases

Oregon - 2 cases

  • Terri Louise Kobialka in 2000, for mailing in a ballot for a former tenant during the 2000 elections
  • Marjory Gale in 2016, for submitting her daughter's ballot during the 2016 election

Utah - 0 cases

Wyoming - 2 cases

  • Gary and Leila Blake in 2001, for voting in a county election after moving away from said county

In total, from the 5 states listed above, we have 8 cases with a combined 9 fraudulent votes spanning from 2000 to 2016.

[note 1]: The Heritage foundation, by their own admission, claims that their database is not exhaustive or comprehensive. However, as Heritage is an organization that is against mail-in voting and for voter ID laws, they are most likely to have the most comprehensive database available, as any cases they add to their database strengthen their argument.

[note 2]: I am not including cases where someone voted in multiple states, even if one was a mail-in vote, as this is not due to having All-Mail voting but instead due to voter registration issues, and is outside the scope of this question and this answer.

[note 3]: Brittany Curtis in 2012 is also listed under "Fraudulent Use Of Absentee Ballots" but appears to be related to a petition, and may be mis-categorized

  • 2
    To make this a great answer it needs to provide the context for the examples given (good idea to use a skeptical source BTW). Since some anti postal voting commentators have portrayed the postal voting as new and unproven, a little history of its use in the US would help. Also some idea of how many postal votes are used in typical US elections would put the examples in perpsective and help answer the question of significance.
    – matt_black
    Jun 3, 2020 at 20:56
  • Good point @matt_black and I referenced it in comments above and didn't bring it up. I'll try to add in voting history for the five states mentioned in this answer and update it.
    – DenisS
    Jun 3, 2020 at 23:01
  • Looking through the Heritage Foundation data was very interesting. Given that they are a (self-described) right-wing website, I wasn't expecting so many of their records of voter fraud to be perpetrated by right-wing supporters.
    – Onyz
    Jun 4, 2020 at 16:22
  • I would also add the general context of how common postal voting is and how long it has existed, not just in the states you mentioned. Some commentators have portrayed it as a radical new idea or a purely modern innovation of which the US has little experience.
    – matt_black
    Jun 4, 2020 at 16:22
  • @matt_black Some states have extensive mail voting, some barely cover absentee. That sounds like a different claim for a different question.
    – user11643
    Aug 22, 2020 at 14:40

In New Jersey, a recent local election was done entirely by mail. 19% of the votes had to be disqualified due to signatures not matching or the chain of possession being disrupted. Four people have been charged with voter fraud.

In addition to the roughly 800 ballots that were discounted due to allegations of fraud from the US Postal Service, another 2,300 ballots were not counted, according to the Paterson Press. In total, 19% of all the ballots cast were disqualified.

Keith Furlong, a spokesman for Passaic County government, said that the additional 2,300 ballots were not counted due to the county’s practice of comparing signatures on the ballots with those that were on file for the voters, which he said was “part of the normal process,” according to the Paterson Press report.

Now, sure, 3000 votes won't flip the popular vote in the presidential election. But it could easily flip the electoral college result in a close election. And it could flip it either way; fraudsters could send in thousands of fraudulent ballots, or a few corrupt election officials could throw away thousands of legitimate ballots. They would even be able to hide behind claims that the ballots discarded were illegitimate.

We even have a self-admitted voter fraud expert explaining how it's done and has been done for decades.

Some states do have successful mail-in voting systems that are not rife with fraud. But in a close election, every state, even every county matters, and it is likely that not every state will be able to implement a fraud-proof 100% mail-in voting system before November. The risk of mail-in voter fraud seems real.

  • 4
    It might be worth discussing the difference between areas that have rapidly converted to mail-in in response to the pandemic vs states like Orgeon with well established mail-in systems. Jun 2, 2020 at 17:11
  • 25
    Signatures not matching doesn't necessarily indicate voter fraud. People's signatures change and people can contest the county's decision. Also, this article notes that about 1,000 ballots were rejected for not being filled out properly which is not fraud. northjersey.com/story/news/paterson-press/2020/05/29/…
    – Legion600
    Jun 2, 2020 at 18:21
  • 3
    You seem to be including an awful lot of personal opinion. Jun 2, 2020 at 21:02
  • 11
    If the standard is to compare ballot signatures with signatures on record, then how does that create much opportunity for fraud? Sounds more like NJ might be overrejecting legitimate votes. Also, show us some context. Without that the answer is useless.
    – matt_black
    Jun 2, 2020 at 23:14
  • 11
    Downvoted for relying on a site with a very strong bias that has repeatedly published stories that are verifiably false. Jun 3, 2020 at 10:06

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