Can I be Charged with Election Fraud in Federal Court?
Election fraud usually involves allegations of the corruption of one of the three main processes involved in an election, namely registering voters, obtaining and marking ballots, and counting and certifying results. Whether these kinds of allegations are tried in state or federal court can have important repercussions for defendants, making it especially important for those who have been accused of committing election fraud to retain an experienced white collar crime attorney who is familiar with these jurisdictional issues.
When do Federal Courts Have Jurisdiction?
Most election fraud-related crimes are charged in state court, although it is possible for these types of offenses to be charged in federal court when a federal candidate is named on the ballot. Generally, merely listing the name of a federal candidate on a ballot is enough to satisfy this requirement, so even when federal and non-federal candidates are running at the same time, a charge can be levied in federal court. When a federal candidate is not listed on a ballot, it is much more difficult for a federal court to claim jurisdiction, although it is still possible if the charges involve allegations of:
- Malfeasance by election officials acting under the color of law;
- Fraud in connection with voter registration; or
- The misuse of or unauthorized trespass into a computer system used in connection with an election.
In these cases, a person can be charged with election fraud in federal court, which exposes him or her to more serious penalties.
What Type of Conduct Qualifies as Election Fraud?
A wide range of conduct and activities fall under the broad category of election fraud, but the most common involve:
- Paying voters to register to vote or to vote in certain elections;
- Casting multiple votes or impersonating a voter;
- Intimidating voters with physical harm during any election;
- Diluting valid ballots, preventing voter registration, and rendering false vote calculations;
- Placing the names of fictitious individuals on voter registration lists;
- Preventing voters from participating in elections by disseminating false information about the date, location, or timing of the vote;
- Registering to vote when the person is not a citizen or has committed a serious crime; and
- Providing false information about a voter’s name or address.
It’s important to note that not all irregularities in the election process qualify as crimes. For example, it isn’t a crime for an official to make negligent mistakes when it comes to administering an election. Instead, courts are directed to assess the intent of the defendant when deciding whether an allegation warrants investigation and prosecution. In most cases, criminal charges are only appropriate when there is evidence that a defendant’s objective was to corrupt the election process. Making these distinctions is critical when it comes to filing criminal charges, and unfortunately, not all prosecutors are so discerning, so it is critical for those who have been accused of election fraud to speak with an attorney as soon as possible about their legal options.
Call Today for Legal Assistance
To speak with an experienced white collar crime lawyer for free about your own pending election fraud charges, please call Jeffrey S. Weiner, P.A. in Miami at 305-670-9919 today.