Election Crimes at the Federal Level: What FBI Cleveland Wants You to Know
CLEVELAND, OH—For decades, the FBI has served as the primary agency responsible for investigating allegations of federal election crimes, including campaign finance violations, ballot/voter fraud, and civil rights violations.
With the approaching midterm election, the FBI Cleveland Field Office is providing information to voters regarding federal election crimes and how to avoid them, and to encourage voters to report suspected violations.
“Cleveland FBI stands ready to assist; our team of election crime coordinators, investigators, and special agents remain vigilant and focused on protecting the election from potential threats,” said FBI Cleveland Special Agent in Charge Gregory Nelsen. “Investigating allegations of voter fraud or other election crimes is one of our highest priorities. We encourage voters to learn and understand what constitutes an election crime and urge the public to report any instance of wrongdoing.”
Federal law protects against such crimes as threatening violence against election officials or staff, intimidating or bribing voters, buying and selling votes, impersonating voters, altering vote tallies, stuffing ballot boxes, and marking ballots for voters against their wishes or without their input. It also contains special protections for the rights of voters, and provides that they can vote free from interference, including intimidation, and other acts designed to prevent or discourage people from voting or voting for the candidate of their choice. The Voting Rights Act protects the right of voters to mark their own ballot or to be assisted by a person of their choice (where voters need assistance because of disability or inability to read or write in English).
An election crime becomes a federal crime when there are one or more federal candidates on the ballot and one or more of the following occurs:
- Election or polling place officials abuse their office;
- The conduct involves voter or ballot fraud;
- The crime is motivated by hostility toward protected minority groups;
- The activity violates federal campaign finance law.
Voter or ballot fraud is one of the more common election crimes and can include:
- A voter intentionally giving false information when registering to vote (e.g. false citizenship claims);
- An ineligible person votes (e.g., all non-citizens and some convicted felons);
- An individual votes more than once in a federal election (e.g., schemes to obtain absentee ballots and or vote in the name of others);
- Election officials who inappropriately use their office to benefit a candidate or party (e.g., letting unqualified voters cast ballots, stuffing a ballot box with illegal ballots, or changing ballot tallies); and
- A voter receives something of value (e.g. money, cigarettes, drugs) in exchange for voting for a specific candidate or party in a federal election or for registering to vote.
The FBI is standing watch assessing election-related threats, tracking significant complaints, and identifying trends indicative of a coordinated nationwide effort to disrupt the election process.
FBI Cleveland will have special agents available throughout the coverage area to receive allegations of election fraud and other election abuses on election day and can be reached at 216-522-1400. The FBI election crime website can inform voters further: Election Crimes — FBI
In the instance of a crime of violence or intimidation, please call 911 immediately before contacting federal authorities. State and local police have primary jurisdiction over polling places and faster reaction capacity in an emergency.