Errors, voter suppression have more impact on elections than voter fraud, say Emory experts

Oct. 20, 2016


Megan McRainey

Elaine Justice


Presidential candidate Donald Trump’s recent comments about voter fraud and “rigged” elections have rekindled the debate about whether American elections accurately reflect the will of voters.

There’s little proof of voter fraud in America, say three Emory experts, but there are other voting-related issues that should raise concerns this election season.

Michael Kang, professor of law and expert in election laws, says voter fraud isn’t a practical way to influence a national election.

“It’s very hard for election fraud to swing an election,” says Kang. “Our system has lots of problems but it doesn’t seem that election fraud is one of the major ones. It’s exceedingly rare.”

“The cases in which we’ve seen election fraud on a large enough scale to affect an election have occurred at the local level, usually mayoral races. You need to change a lot of votes to change an election outcome. It’s hard to do through fraud,” says Kang.

However, voters have every reason be concerned about whether their vote is being accurately counted because of limited funding and outdated technology, he says.

Carol Anderson, Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of African American Studies and author of the book, “White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide,” says that voter suppression has done more to influence American elections than voter fraud.

“The [election] rigging started when Republicans started passing voter suppression laws,” Anderson says.

She argues in her book that despite concerted drives to find voter fraud throughout the nation, such efforts have uncovered almost nothing. Yet “Barack Obama’s election was a catalyst for a level of voter suppression activities that had not been seen so clearly or disturbingly in decades.”  

Andra Gillespie, associate professor of political science, says Trump’s voter fraud accusations please his base but could sow unrest after the election.

“Donald Trump has increasingly articulated his concern that the election will be rigged against him. It is a message that seems to resonate with those attending his stump speeches,” Gillespie says.

“But his comments undermine confidence and trust in the overall system, which could have long-term implications for whether we take whatever government comes from this vote seriously,” she says