13 September 2020 04:38

Glastonbury Festival Ballot Primary election

© Getty Images What are the consequences of voting twice in an election? President Trump has in recent months roiled an election already upended by the coronavirus pandemic, alleging repeatedly without evidence that voting by mail poses security concerns. The president sparked further criticism when he suggested that supporters in North Carolina vote in person after casting their absentee ballots. This week, officials in Georgia said they were investigating 1,000 cases of people voting twice in state elections - though questions remain as to whether they did so intentionally. With Election Day approaching, here's a look at what the consequences are of voting twice in an election.

Voting twice is illegal in federal elections under federal law. Voters who cast "votes more than once in an election" will be fined "not more than $10,000" and "imprisoned not more than five years, or both," according to federal law. According to a database from the National Conference of State Legislatures, at least 28 states say it is a felony to vote twice in the same election. Penalties for double voting vary by state, though they can include jail time. Several states mandate that those found guilty of violating their election laws serve prison time or pay a fine.

For instance, Pennsylvania says those who vote twice can be fined up to $15,000 and/or serve as much as seven years behind bars. Prosecutors have a fair amount of leeway in deciding how strictly they want to go after voters who cast two ballots. The decision, according to Steven Huefner, professor at the Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, is often based on intent, with prosecutors determining if the votes were an "innocent mistake," such as forgetting that a voter had already sent in an absentee ballot, or an "intentional effort to manipulate the results." Voting twice, like all other forms of voter fraud, is exceedingly rare. not that often," said Justin Levitt, an election expert and professor at Loyola Law School, when asked how frequently people vote twice. "Of the very few times that it happens, most are due sometimes to mistakes," he added, saying mistakes include voters forgetting they had already cast mail-in ballots, confusion over having two residences in different jurisdictions and false flags if two voters have the same name and date of birth.

Voting twice is also viewed as a particularly ineffective form of swaying an election if done intentionally and easy for election monitors to notice. Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) raised eyebrows this week when he said that 1,000 people had voted twice in the state's primary elections in June and said prosecutors may press for felony charges after an investigation is completed. Raffensperger told reporters that approximately 150,000 voters who applied for absentee ballots also appeared in person at polling places on election day. "It is often the case that a first cut of the voter list of who's voted will raise flags about a number of possible instances of double voting that upon investigation just evaporate," Huefner of Ohio State University said. Double voting is particularly easy for monitors to catch given safeguards that are in place to ensure that each voter casts just one ballot.

Every jurisdiction keeps a master list of registered voters, which is consistently updated when absentee ballots are requested and cast and then on hand at in-person voting stations to ensure that every person who votes has not mailed in a ballot beforehand. Voting twice is "really hard for election officials not to notice," Huefner said. Could Trump's remarks increase instances of double voting? While double voting is easy to spot, experts still fear that the president's remarks will increase voters' attempts to cast two ballots. Trump earlier this month encouraged supporters in North Carolina to attempt to vote both by mail and in person so that they - as he put it - could test the integrity of the system. His remarks have fueled concerns among Democrats who have criticized him for attempting to sow doubt in the results of November's election. And they have drawn criticism since voting twice is illegal. Nightmare Initial results indicate Joe Biden won the election, but the vote in several key swing states remains close. An orchestrated social media campaign — including what looked like posts by Chinese "patriotic" hackers — claim that the Chinese government has hacked into the vote tabulation systems of key close precincts and altered the results in favor of Mr. Biden. After a few days, the Department of Homeland Security determines that no claimed attempts to breach voting systems were successful. Faced with this reality, federal and state officials, as well as social media companies must publicly expose, as quickly as possible, any attempt at interference, regardless of candidate. Additional funding should go to state and local election authorities to bolster the security of voting systems and to enhance communication to voters. If voters lose trust in the legitimacy of our elections, the Russians and other malicious actors will have won. Twitter and Facebook both flagged posts by President Trump on Saturday that encouraged Americans to vote by mail as early as possible and then follow up that vote by going to the polls on Election Day to check that it was counted — action that could cause unnecessarily long lines during the COVID-19 pandemic. "NORTH CAROLINA: To make sure your Ballot COUNTS, sign & send it in EARLY," the tweet and Facebook post read. Your signed Ballot will not count because your vote has been posted. Twitter placed a banner over the tweet that said it "violated the Twitter Rules about civic and election integrity" and noted that the platform kept the post accessible because "it may be in the public's interest." Facebook also placed a banner underneath the post with a link to their voting information center and a note that read: "Voting by mail has a long history of trustworthiness in the U.S. and the same is predicted this year." In response to the president's comments, North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein, a Democrat, encouraged people to simply vote by sending in their ballot and tracking it online. He warned that voting twice is a felony. "The only GOOD thing about the President's tweet is that he FINALLY encourages voters to VOTE BY MAIL," Stein tweeted. "It's an easy, safe & secure way to cast a ballot." Trump's tweet comes just days after the North Carolina State Board of Elections reminded voters that it is illegal to cast a ballot twice after the president encouraged voters to do just that in another series of tweets that Twitter blocked. 3 that voters should not show up to a polling place on Election Day if they already voted by mail. Although the president has voted by mail, he has attacked mail-in voting as a potential avenue for voter fraud. In June, he tweeted that the country should consider delaying the election because of the pandemic and increased use of mail-in voting (he cannot do this). Election experts say that while there is slightly more fraud in mail-in voting than with in-person voting, election fraud is extremely rare in all instances. With just 51 days until Election Day, efforts to expand mail-in voting have increased as a way to avoid overcrowding at polling places during the coronavirus pandemic. According to The New York Times, at least 75% of all American voters are eligible to vote by mail-in ballot, the most in U.S. history. BOSTON (AP) — Voters who have not already submitted vote-by-mail applications for the November election should keep an eye on their mailboxes in the coming days. The state is mailing vote-by-mail applications to all registered voters who have not already submitted an application for a ballot. Voters who have already applied for a November ballot don't need to re-apply, according to Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin, who oversees elections in Massachusetts. Voters who want to confirm receipt of their Vote by Mail application can go to www.TrackMyBallotMA.com, which will show a "pending" November ballot for anyone who already has an application on file. 1 primary allowed voters to apply for ballots for the primary, the general election, or both. Voters who aren't sure if they already applied, should track their ballot on the website to doublecheck. Ballots are expected to start being mailed by the first week of October. Voters are encouraged to apply early in order to ensure timely delivery of their ballots. The U.S. Postal Service is advising voters to submit their applications no later than Oct. 20, according to Galvin. Ballots that are not received by local election officials on or before Election Day must arrive no later than Nov. 6 and be postmarked by Nov. 3 in order to be counted. Those planning to vote in person don't need to submit vote-by-mail applications. Additional Vote by Mail applications may be found at www.MailMyBallotMA.com. A fierce Senate Democratic contest helped spur a record number of Massachusetts voters to cast ballots in the primary. There were more than 1.7 million ballots cast — besting the previous record set during the 1990 state primaries when more than 1.5 million were cast.