According to courts, officials and experts, voter fraud rarely happens

Election fraud claims initiated by then-President Donald Trump and his allies began once results started pouring in on Nov. 3, 2020. Allegations began bouncing around right-wing media and pro-Trump social media platforms, and led to the attempted insurrection in the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. 

Trump and political allies filed more than 60 lawsuits contesting the election on the basis of fraud, with all being dismissed or dropped, including several by judges appointed by Trump. None of these unsuccessful lawsuits deterred groups backing the former president.  Many Trump supporters were convinced that voting machines were to blame for Trump’s loss. Numerous unwarranted claims were made, that the machines were hacked and votes were changed, and in April 2023, Fox News Channel paid $787 million to manufacturer Dominion Voting Systems for broadcasting those false claims. 

“One of our biggest threats to elections is actually misinformation and disinformation,” said Misha Mohr, public information officer for the Oklahoma State Election Board. “Our voting machines are not connected to the internet — they don’t have the capability of being connected to the internet.”

According to post election audits, the machines are more accurate and faster than the archaic method of hand-counting. State laws in Oklahoma established that votes are counted using these voting devices, which were first implemented in 2012 . 

However, machines in Oklahoma were not in question in 2020. 

“Those alleging electoral fraud only look to the states where Trump lost, and only those places, had he not lost, would have made a difference in the electoral college totals for him,” said Loren Gatch, UCO political science professor. “It’s a totally opportunistic argument. It’s not one that focuses as a general matter on the election process as a whole, looking for genuine instances, if they do exist, for when fraud took place. People are, in effect, cherry-picking the places they look at, because those are the ones that contribute to Trump having lost the election.” 

Several more defamation lawsuits against other conservative news outlets and individuals brought forth by both Dominion and Smartmatic systems are continuing, including a $1.6 billion lawsuit against Newsmax currently at trial.

The reason that voting machines were the point of interest concerning “stolen election” claims, Gatch said, is because it was the only excuse for their own internal polling failures. 

“It goes back to, what would be necessary to commit fraud on a level that really would swing an election one way or the other?” Gatch said.

There have been cases of individuals trying to vote twice, but according to Mohr, safety measures are in place to prevent multiple votes by one voter. 

“If you attempt to vote twice in Oklahoma, you will be caught,” Mohr said.

The juice might not be worth the squeeze. Then there are the long-term effects on democracy. False claims about the machines caused more distrust in elections than the machines themselves could have ever done. 

“The best that we can do is hope that, in the future, candidates won’t learn from Trump and say, whenever an election doesn’t go the way they want it, ‘It must have been fraudulent,’” Gatch said. “If that becomes a typical claim made by losers, I think that does have very adverse implications for democracy.

“What makes democracy, in a genuine sense, functional and effective, is that people who lose take their loss, and they wait for another day where they perhaps would become a winner.”

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