Voters: Watch Out for Dirty Electoral Tricks

Oct 29, 2018

Early voting for the midterm elections is just past the halfway mark, with turnout and enthusiasm said to be unusually strong. As with every election, there are some who would try to throw a wrench into the election process and keep people from voting.

The common thread through all the dirty tricks and other skullduggery is an attempt to stop certain groups of people from voting at all, in hopes of influencing the outcome of an election.

“Voting is the greatest right in a democracy; the integrity of a person’s vote – there’s nothing more precious and important to a well-functioning democracy,” says retired political scientist Susan MacManus, who adds that in every election, there are a lot of vulnerable people who are open to such scams.

“Traditionally it’s been shut-ins, the elderly who are so trusting of others,” MacManus says. “Sometimes you’ll find someone who doesn’t read well; somebody offers to help complete their ballot – and fill the ballot out as they personally want, rather than what the person they’re allegedly helping has asked to do.”

Voter deception can take many forms, such as telephone calls telling people that, since there’s such a huge turnout on Election Day, they have to wait until the next day to cast their ballots. 

“Sometimes people will call and say, ‘the polls are really, really crowded; I can come by and pick up your ballot and save you the time.’ Or sending out a flyer [saying] Election Day is really this and your precinct is really that; both of which or either one of which might be erroneous.”

And many such scams do target vote-by-mail.  

“Someone will offer to come to your home and take [the ballot] and deliver it to the Supervisor of Elections Office,” MacManus says. “If the person says ‘I’m really busy,’ then the person can say ‘I can come by and you can just tell me who you want to vote, and I’ll fill it in right there and you sign it and off we go.’

Political Scientist Susan MacManus.
Credit pbs.org

While voting by mail is a thing, look out for phone calls and texts that say you can also vote by phone -- you cannot.

Dirty voter tricks in the Florida Panhandle, are relatively few and far between.

“In fact, I think there’s less in the Panhandle than there is in some other parts the state,” says MacManus. “The big metropolitan areas with a lot of younger [voters] and people who don’t speak English well, don’t read well. And there’s areas of elderly and mentally-vulnerable people.”

Given the extra rancor and partisanship of the 2018 mid-term, MacManus says in an election with high stakes and outcomes -- which can be determined by relatively few votes -- there can be a strong temptation to cheat.

“We always try to alert people what to watch out for, and if you have a loved one who is, in your mind, vulnerable to people who would do wrong, it’s very important that you kind of watch over your loved one to make sure they don’t fall prey to such activities,” MacManus says.

Fighting back against voter fraud can be as simple as hanging up the phone when they call.

“Call your Supervisor of Elections and let them know immediately,” says MacManus. “You have to have somebody vote if you’re running for office to win, so there’s a lot of vulnerable people who are just open for such pranks. [But] it’s not a prank; it’s voter fraud.”