Election Crimes at the Federal Level: What to Know
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 Springfield Field Office is providing information to voters regarding federal election crimes and how to avoid them, and to encourage voters to report suspected violations to FBI Springfield.
“While individual states have primary responsibility for conducting fair and free elections, the FBI plays an important role in protecting federal interests,” said FBI Springfield Field Office Special Agent in Charge David Nanz. “Our teams of investigators, including election crimes coordinators in each of our 56 field offices, remain vigilant in detecting those trying to undermine our political process and we will aggressively investigate any allegations of voter fraud or other election crimes. Our focus is on protecting elections from potential threats so the American people can have confidence in their democratic process.”
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 Springfield will have special agents available throughout the coverage area to receive allegations of election fraud and other election abuses on election day. FBI Springfield can be reached at 217-522-9675 or via email at email@example.com. 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.