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According to the National Conference of State Legislatures
The Definition of Double Voting Is…
Most commonly, states prohibit voting more than once “in the same election.” This can be interpreted in different ways. Is voting in more than one state but on the same day voting in the “same election”? Or is each state-run election a separate election?
What if voting occurred on different days, i.e. a voter cast an absentee ballot in one state and voted in person in another state on Election Day? Table 1 below contains state-by-state statutory language. In summary:
- 11 states explicitly prohibit voting in more than one state: Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Missouri, New Hampshire, Oregon, South Dakota, Virginia, and Washington.
- 7 states prohibit voting twice within the state or for the same office: Alabama, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Mississippi and West Virginia.
- 31 states and Washington, D.C., prohibit voting twice in the same election: Alaska, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
- In Indiana voting twice is not explicitly mentioned, but a person may not knowingly apply for or receive a ballot in a precinct other than the precinct in which the person is entitled to vote. And, registering to vote more than once is a misdemeanor.
Underlying these state statutes is the Voting Rights Act’s prohibition on “voting more than once.” 52 U.S.C. § 10307(e). NCSL has been unable to find a prosecution of any person under that statute for voting in multiple states at the same time (for instance, voting for state and federal offices in the 2016 election in State X and for state offices in State Y, when the voter owns residences in both states). Thus, the question of whether federal law prohibits such voting practices remains unresolved.
Is Double Voting a Crime?
Double voting is often listed as a felony in states, and can come with hefty fines or jail time. Although statistics show it to be rare, it is also difficult to identify and difficult to prosecute when it does occur.
It is not always clear when double voting has happened across state lines, given the variation between states’ policies. Below are three scenarios for a voter who voted in two states on the same federal election date:
- Neither state prohibits “voting more than once.” In this scenario,no crime has occurred, because there is no federal statute prohibiting double-voting. Voter registration in multiple states is not itself a crime, and thus no one can be prosecuted for simply having two open voter registrations in different jurisdictions.
- At least one state prohibits “voting more than once,” but the prohibiting state does not define “voting more than once.” Whether or not the voter violated the law varies by jurisdiction. In a prominent prosecution described below, the voter did not violate the law. In that 2015 court case, an Arizona woman was charged with casting an absentee vote in Colorado and an in-person vote in Arizona during a midterm election. She was charged in Arizona with illegally voting twice, and was convicted by a jury trial. An appeals court overturned her conviction, noting that the Arizona statute as it stood at the time—A.R.S. § 16-1016(2)—did not apply to situations other than voting for an office twice. Because different senators and members of the U.S. House were up for election in each state, the court held that the elections were unique to each state, and therefore the voter had not voted twice in violation of the statute. State v. Hannah, 355 P.3d 607 (Ariz. 2015). In light of the ruling, the Arizona Legislature passed an amendment in 2016 to the statute redefining voting more than once as meaning “knowingly votes in this state in an election in which a federal office appears on the ballot and votes in another state in an election in which a federal office appears on the ballot[,] and the election day for both states is the same date.” A.R.S. § 16-1016(4).
- At least one state (New Hampshire) prohibits “voting more than once.” New Hampshire defines “voting more than once” to prohibit voting in an election in two or more states on the same day.: In this scenario, the voter has likely violated the laws of the prohibiting state, and would be in trouble with the law.
IF YOU HAVE QUESTIONS ABOUT VOTING ASK SOMEONE WHO KNOWS LIKE THE BOARD OF ELECTIONS IN YOUR STATE, AN ELECTED OFFICIAL, POLITICAL PARTY STAFF OR YOUR VOTING PRECINCT OFFICE STAFF. DON’T SET YOURSELF UP TO GET ARRESTED AND PROSECUTED FOR TRYING TO CONFIRM YOUR VOTE IN THE WRONG WAY 🙁
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