Election Crimes

The FBI, through its Public Corruption Unit, has an important but limited role in ensuring fair and free elections.

In democratic societies like the United States, the voting process lets citizens hold their government accountable, conflicts be channeled into resolutions, and power transfers happen peacefully. Our system of representative government works only when honest ballots are not diluted by fraudulent ballots. 

Learn more about the roles and responsibilities of federal executive branch agencies (including the FBI) in United States elections.

If you think an election crime is occurring, contact your local FBI field office or submit a tip online at tips.fbi.gov.

You can also learn about election-related scams and how to stay safe.

Election crimes become federal cases when:

  • The ballot includes one or more federal candidates
  • The crime involves an election official abusing his duties
  • The crime pertains to fraudulent voter registration
  • Voters are not U.S. citizens

What is not a federal election crime?

  • Giving voters a ride to the polls
  • Offering voters a stamp to mail an absentee ballot
  • Giving voters time off to vote
  • Violating state campaign finance laws
  • Distributing inaccurate campaign literature
  • Campaigning too close to the polls
  • Trying to convince an opponent to withdraw from a race

Federal election crimes fall into three broad categories—campaign finance crimes, voter/ballot fraud, and civil rights violations.

Campaign finance

  • A person gives more than $4,600 to a federal candidate (various limits apply for donations to and from committees and groups)
  • A donor asks a friend to give money to a federal candidate, promising to reimburse the friend, and the friend makes the donation and the real donor reimburses him
  • A corporation gives corporate money to a federal candidate
  • A person who is neither a citizen nor a green card holder gives money to a federal, state, or local candidate

Civil rights violations

  • Someone threatens a voter with physical or economic harm unless the voter casts his ballot in a particular way
  • Someone tries to prevent qualified voters from getting to the polls in a federal election
  • A scheme exists to prevent minorities from voting

Voter/ballot fraud

  • A voter intentionally gives false information when registering to vote
  • A voter receives money or something of value in exchange for voting in a federal election or registering to vote
  • Someone votes more than once in a federal election
  • An election official corrupts his or her office to benefit a candidate or party (e.g., lets unqualified voters cast ballots)