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What is California voter fraud?

Posted by Neil Shouse | Jul 01, 2016 | 0 Comments

California had its primary election on June 7, 2016. As always, California officials were working to ensure there was no voter fraud in California.

California voter fraud is a crime

There are dozens of laws covering California election fraud. These fall into four basic categories:

  1. Voter registration violations,
  2. Petition initiative violations,
  3. Election day and voting violations, and
  4. Nomination and election campaign violations.

Voter registration fraud

The most serious voter registration violations include:

  • Registering to vote when you are not eligible -- California Elections Code 18100 (a),
  • Registering as a non-existent person (including deceased persons, animals, and inanimate objects) -- California Elections Code 18100 (b), and
  • Registering as a fictitious person – California Elections Code 18101.

These California voter registration crimes are “wobbler” violations. They can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, in the prosecutor's discretion.

Consequences of California voter registration fraud

As a misdemeanor, the consequences of California voter registration fraud can include up to one year in county jail.

Felony penalties for California voter registration fraud can include 16 months or two or three years in jail. There is also the possibility of a fine in addition to or instead of imprisonment.

Election-day fraud

California includes the following crimes in its definition of election fraud:

  • Accepting or offering money for a vote -- California Elections Code 18521,
  • Using threats or coercion to influence a vote -- California Elections Code 18540,
  • Voting in an election in which one is not entitled – California Elections Code section 18560(a),
  • Voting more than once in the same election -- California Elections Code section 18560(b), and
  • Impersonating another voter -- California Elections Code section 18560(c).

Penalties for California voting day fraud

Actual election-day fraud is almost always a straight felony in California. Consequences can include:

  • 16 months, or two or three years in county jail, and/or
  • a fine of up to $1,000 or $10,000 (depending on the crime).

Other common California voting crimes and their consequences

Additional voter fraud crimes include (but are not limited to):

  • Trying to influence a vote within 100 feet of a polling place (felony),
  • Bringing a gun to a polling place (wobbler),
  • Challenging a person's right to vote without probable cause (wobbler),
  • Tampering with a voting machine (felony, up to 4 years in prison), or
  • Voting with someone else's vote by mail ballot (wobbler and/or up to $1,000 fine).

What can I do about California voter fraud?

If you believe someone has committed California voter or election fraud, you can file a California Voter Complaint Form with the California Secretary of State. Mail or fax the form to:

California Secretary of State
Investigative Services
1500 11th Street, 2nd Floor
Sacramento, CA 95814
Fax: (916) 653-8728

If you have questions, you can also call the Secretary of State's office at:

English: (916) 657-2166 or (800) 345-VOTE (8683)
Spanish: (800) 232-VOTA (8682).

And if you or someone you know is accused of voter fraud, we invite you to contact our California criminal defense lawyers. California's voting laws can be confusing. Don't let a simple mistake send you to jail when you were only trying to do your civic duty.

About the Author

Neil Shouse

A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, Court TV, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.

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