Friday, September 22, 2023

Voter Fraud: A Reality Check and History Lesson


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In 2000, the headline on The Tennessean had the race between George Bush and former Vice President Al Gore as too close to call. A winner was not declared until December when the Supreme Court decided a recount in Florida was unnecessary.

Story by Sam War and Kristi Jones / Contributing Writers

Election fraud conspiracy is a hot button item this year, of that there is no doubt. President Trump has raised the issue consistently throughout the campaign, particularly concerning mail-in ballots, which are very popular this year due to safety issues related to COVID-19. In addition, various candidates and political parties have alleged fraudulent activities in presidential races for several decades.

However, election fraud is quite rare in the United States, particularly during the presidential election. There are few accounts of proven fraud in federal elections. The voting fraud cases that have been prosecuted involved state and local races.

In 2020, many Republicans question the security of mail-in voting. President Trump heavily criticizes the idea even though he has voted by mail several times.

Trump has gone to Twitter several times to express his opinion that mail-in voting will lead to a stolen election.

Earlier this year he tweeted: “Unsolicited Ballots are uncontrollable, totally open to election interference by foreign countries, and will lead to massive chaos and confusion!” The Associated Press ran a fact check and reported that mail-in ballots aren’t the biggest risk for foreign interference.

While mail-in ballots are more susceptible to fraud than in-person voting, according to the Brennan Center of Justice in New York, “it is still more likely to get struck by lightning than to commit voter fraud.”

Trump also tweeted: “The big Unsolicited Ballot States should give it up NOW, before it is too late, and ask people to go to the Polling Booths and, like always before, VOTE. Otherwise, MAYHEM!!! Solicited Ballots {absentee} are OK.”

The Rutherford County Election Commission does not believe there is a high chance of election fraud due to a higher percentage of mail-in and absentee ballots.

According to the Rutherford County Election Statistics from the 2016 Presidential Election, roughly 2 percent voted by absentee ballot. Approximately 22 percent voted by paper or machine on election day and 72 percent early voted by paper or machine.

Since early voting opened two weeks ago, Rutherford County has already seen an extremely higher percentage of early voting. According to the commission, by day 12 of the early voting period, 104,593 people had voted, equal to more than half of all registered voters in the county.

Election fraud in Tennessee is much lower than most states in the country, according to The Heritage Foundation. The Heritage Foundation is governed by an independent Board of Trustees and its mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom of traditional American values and a strong national defense.

Out of 1,300 instances of proven voter fraud in the country since the early 1980s, only 10 have occurred in Tennessee, and those occurred since 2004.

In 2005, Manchester resident Mary Lou Simpson was arrested after a 2004 election for attempting to vote in the name of her deceased sister, according to The Heritage Foundation. Simpson was spotted by a poll worker who noticed that she had already voted earlier in the day.

She was convicted of Impersonation Fraud at the polls resulting in a Class E felony, which can be punishable by up to two years in prison. Simpson was given two years probation.

In 2019, Monroe County resident, Brian “Wormy” Hodge conspired with Betty Best to buy votes, according to The Heritage Foundation. At the time, Hodge was a reserve deputy sheriff. The pair paid roughly $20 and $40 per vote, and both plead guilty to conspiracy to buy votes.

Hodge was sentenced to a five-year probation term and ordered to perform 50 hours of community service. The associated fine was waived by the judge. Best was sentenced to three years of probation.

While election fraud is more common in county elections, some presidents have been accused of election fraud.

John F. Kennedy, America’s 35th President elected in 1960 was accused of election fraud by his opponent, Richard M. Nixon. The race was a close one, where pundits still argue whether Kennedy really won Illinois and Texas, the two states Nixon needed to win the Electoral College count.

In Chicago, there were allegations that Mayor Richard Daley stuffed the ballot box in Cook County for Kennedy, although Democrats charged the Republicans for also stuffing ballot boxes in southern Illinois. In Texas, there were similar rumors that Kennedy’s running mate, Lyndon B. Johnson, influenced the results. None of these allegations led to charges being filed.

Nixon conceded the election to Kennedy but later wrote in his autobiography that there was fraud happening across Illinois and Texas during the election.

Nixon never asked for a recount, which upset the Republican Party. The Republican Party investigated the totals in 11 states, according to the National Constitution Center. Nixon ended up losing Hawaii to Kennedy after the recount.

“The GOP’s failure to prove fraud doesn’t mean, of course, the election was clean. That question remains unsolved and unsolvable,” historian and author David Greenberg of Rutgers University told the National Constitution Center in 2017.

Historian Edmund Kallina, a professor at the University of Central Florida, conducted research into Chicago Mayor Daley’s ballot box accusations and found that even if the ballot box was stuffed, it wasn’t enough to decide the election.

Nixon later ran in 1969 and won becoming the 37th President of the United States,  serving until his resignation under the shadow of the Watergate investigation in 1974.

A more recent example of election dispute came in 2000 when George W. Bush, our 43rd President of the United States, was successful against Al Gore. Gore, a former vice president and favorite son of Tennessee, won the popular vote, but the Electoral College count was undecided because of uncertainty in Florida.

The 2000 count in Florida remains a controversial topic that ultimately came down to 537 votes out of the six million cast in the Sunshine State, according to Nashville Public Radio.

Complicating the matter was that at least one TV network named Gore as the winner in Florida, but who won Florida wasn’t decided for several weeks. The question of whether to have a recount in Florida was ultimately decided by the Supreme Court, which ruled in Bush’s favor by a vote of 7-2.

To contact News Editor Toriana Williams, email

For more news, visit, or follow us on Facebook at MTSU Sidelines or on Twitter at @Sidelines_News 

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