Studies show that voter fraud does not occur enough to impact elections, but many people across the country believe otherwise. Spoke to Secretary of State Bob Evnen, who oversees elections, and Dr. Pierce Ekstrom, a UNL political science professor who studies the psychological side of politics.
Around 158.4 million Americans voted in the 2020 presidential election, according to the Pew Research Center. This number though is at the center of a larger debate surrounding voter fraud. since the 2020 election, Americans have continued to question the validity of elections and the possibility of voter fraud across the country.
But what exactly is voter fraud? According to Nebraska Secretary of State Bob Evnen, electoral fraud involves illegal interference in the voting process. Different types of fraud include ballot stuffing, voter impression and more.
For most of those who believe election fraud exists, they believe that fraud is committed via machine tampering. But according to Evnen, when fraud occurs, it does not involve machines.
“It has to do with people. It has to do with stuffing ballot boxes,” Evnen said. “It has to do with elections, elections that are conducted by people in ways that are potentially problematic.”
Evnen says that his office has not seen any evidence of election manipulation within the state of Nebraska. He says many studies and reports state that the frequency of voter fraud across the country is virtually non-existent. Yet still, almost 40% of the public believes that election fraud happened in the 2020 election, according to a poll from Quinnipiac University.
So why do people continue to believe in election fraud despite contradicting facts? The issue starts with how people go about collecting information.
Dr. Pierce Ekstrom says psychological factors often influence how people gather information. He is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and says many people go through the process of selective exposure, meaning that they choose to seek out and accept information that supports their beliefs.
And as Ekstrom says, a significant portion of the general public relies heavily on information provided by politicians, candidates and even media personalities, many of whom have been influenced by fraud claims from the 2020 election.
“When we talk about leaders, Republican leaders, today worried about voter fraud, a lot of them are responding to rhetoric from the 2020 election specifically, and Donald Trump’s claims that he won that election. And that only due to fraud did he, or could he, have lost,” said Ekstrom.
And the impact of continuing claims of voter fraud could have several effects. Ekstrom says that the implementation of voter id laws or voter restrictions would be the least severe course of action in future elections.
Ekstrom says he believes that future candidates could begin to systematically break the law in response to unfavorable election results.
To avoid reaching that point, Evnen wants to encourage voters not to let the fear of election fraud dissuade them from participating in democracy.
“So in a representative democracy like ours, it is absolutely essential that people have confidence in the elections, and it is also essential that the elections themselves are conducted in a secure manner with integrity,” Evnen said. “And this is just something we have to be ever-vigilante about.”