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Election 2016

State Data Show Voter Fraud No Threat To Texas Elections

The Texas Attorney General’s Office has prosecuted fewer than 90 cases of voter fraud since 2002, compared to more than 64 million votes cast over the same period.


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voting booths
Florian Martin
Early voters cast their ballots at Acres Homes Multi-Service Center.

Donald Trump has repeatedly charged that the presidential election is being "rigged" against him. The accusation plays into arguments by many Republican elected officials, including Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, that voter fraud is rampant, and must be checked though the use of strict voter ID laws. But numbers tracked by the Texas state government do not support this.

Houston Public Media's Coverage of Election 2016

Houston Public Media’s Coverage of Election 2016

Earlier this month, Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart met with reporters to discuss steps the county is taking to prevent interference with the upcoming election. That includes efforts to crack down on voter fraud.

"On Friday, September 16, the Harris County Grand Jury indicted two people for illegal voting in Harris County," Stanart said.

"Illegal voting" in this case means that, during this year's primary election, two election workers conspired to cast a vote on behalf of someone who was out of state at the time. If they're found guilty, the defendants would be the first people from Harris County convicted for election fraud in more than fourteen years.

"The problem, lots of times, is being able to prove it," Stanart said. "We've had other instances here where we've presented it to a grand jury and they've not chosen to actually indict."

The Texas Attorney General's Office reports that since 2002, the state has prosecuted 89 cases of election fraud. Seventy of those have resulted in convictions. That's out of more than 64 million votes cast, according to the Texas Secretary of State's Office.

"If you're an individual voter, it's actually fairly difficult to commit fraud," says Teddy Rave, an expert on election law at the University of Houston Law Center. He says one of the toughest kinds of fraud to carry off is in-person voter impersonation. Having a fake ID to get around the state's voter ID law would only be part of the challenge.

"You would have to pretend to be someone that you're not," he says, "convince a poll worker that you're someone that you're not. You'd have to pick a voter, the person you're impersonating, someone who has not voted already, otherwise that would out you. And all the while, you're subjecting yourself to criminal penalties. It's an incredibly inefficient and silly way to try to steal an election."

To have any sort of real impact on the outcome of an election, Rave says, would require a massive conspiracy of people showing up at the polls and pretending to be someone they're not.