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One Person, One Vote: Estimating the Prevalence of Double Voting in U.S. Presidential Elections

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  06 March 2020

SHARAD GOEL
Affiliation:
Stanford University
MARC MEREDITH
Affiliation:
University of Pennsylvania
MICHAEL MORSE
Affiliation:
Harvard University
DAVID ROTHSCHILD
Affiliation:
Microsoft Research
HOUSHMAND SHIRANI-MEHR
Affiliation:
Stanford University

Abstract

Beliefs about the incidence of voter fraud inform how people view the trade-off between electoral integrity and voter accessibility. To better inform such beliefs about the rate of double voting, we develop and apply a method to estimate how many people voted twice in the 2012 presidential election. We estimate that about one in 4,000 voters cast two ballots, although an audit suggests that the true rate may be lower due to small errors in electronic vote records. We corroborate our estimates and extend our analysis using data from a subset of states that share social security numbers, making it easier to quantify who may have voted twice. For this subset of states, we find that one suggested strategy to reduce double voting—removing the registration with an earlier registration date when two share the same name and birthdate—could impede approximately 300 legitimate votes for each double vote prevented.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © American Political Science Association 2020 

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Footnotes

We thank TargetSmart for supplying us with a national voter file. We thank Delton Daigle, Robert Erikson, Daniel Hopkins, David Kestenbaum, Dorothy Kronick, and audience members at the Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse, Yale Behavioral Sciences Workshop, the 2017 Midwest Political Science Association Conference, the 2017 Society for Political Methodology Conference, and the 2018 American Sociological Society Computational Sociology Pre-conference for their comments and suggestions. Replication files are available at the American Political Science Review Dataverse: https://doi.org/10.7910/DVN/QM15HX.

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