Image: Black and white photo of a jail cell, bars in the foreground. Image via pixabay, CC0. In many states people convicted of a felony lose their right to vote.

The election results are more or less in, along with a slew of disinformation about alleged voter fraud. You’ve probably head of #StoptheSteal, a viral-hashtag linked to groups claiming that the election results are inaccurate or illegitimate due to voter fraud. We at TheSocietyPages have published multiple articles and posts pointing to social science research demonstrating that voter fraud is not a big problem in the USA. Following the events of the last few weeks, we decided to provide you with an updated refresher of work in this area.  It documents that voter fraud is virtually non-existent, and that if there are problems related to voting and voters in the USA, they have more to do with suppression and disenfranchisement. 

Across a variety of social science fields, data and research in the last decade shows that voter fraud is extremely rare in the USA. Some scholars estimate the level to be less than one-thousandth of one percent of all votes (i.e less than  0.001%), and that number is actually considered high by other scholars! Furthermore, of the few instances that could qualify as “voter fraud,” most involve issues of individual registration or ballot damage. There is no evidence of systemic, malicious attempts to subvert the results of the election. Indeed, the existing system of voter registration, as well as processing, counting, and sorting ballots, has been validated by extensive  quality-control checks and fraud-prevention procedures. It will be a while before social scientists publish research about the 2020 election, but this author is willing to bet that findings will continue to illustrate a lack of voter fraud in the USA. Remember that the Federal Elections Commission has already stated that the 2020 election was one of the safest, most-secure elections in recent history.
There is a real voting-related issue in the USA that goes unnoticed: voter disenfranchisement and voter suppression. In the past decade, the right to vote has come under attack in ways that are both typical and novel. For example, in many states people convicted of a felony lose their right to vote, even after their prison sentence is completed. This is a long-standing legal norm, but in recent decades, the population of incarcerated Americans has skyrocketed within a criminal justice system already rife with racial inequalities. Today, millions of Americans have been effectively barred from democratic participation, and a disproportionate number are Black, Hispanic, or Native-American.
Relatedly, voter suppression has grown throughf stricter ID laws, de-registration of voters, and other bureaucratic obstacles that make it harder for people to vote, even people who have voted in many elections beforehand. As the research below shows, voter suppression works in ways that skew the American electorate on racial and partisan lines, meaning the votes being cast are not truly representative of the American population.

Ideally, our society would take the energy spurred by the fantastical, imaginary arguments of the #StoptheSteal campaign and instead address the very real issues that compromise our democracy, taint the voting process, and unduly impact election outcomes. The research cited above suggests that removing obstacles to voting would increase individual political participation and general voter turnout; if we’re in pursuit of an ideal democracy, shouldn’t such issues be at the forefront?