Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump repeatedly suggests to his supporters that the elections are rigged against him, that undocumented immigrants are “voting all over the country,” and that there is “large scale” voter fraud.
Instances of voter fraud are so rare that only about 31 allegations of voter impersonation fraud have been found since 2000. But when they do occur, they often happen in a much different way than what Trump describes. On Thursday, voter fraud did take place in the form of a U.S. citizen in Iowa who allegedly voted twice for the Republican presidential candidate. And thanks to safeguards in place, the perpetrator was quickly identified and charged.
Speaking with Iowa Public Radio, Des Moines resident Terri Rote explained that she “was afraid her first ballot for Trump would be changed to a vote for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.”
“I wasn’t planning on doing it twice, it was spur of the moment,” Rote told the station. “The polls are rigged.”
Rote was released on a $5,000 bond and will face up to five years in prison, if convicted.
Polk County Attorney John Sarcone told the radio station that this is “maybe the third [time] we’ve had some irregularity that’s resulted in a criminal charge.” Sarcone added that there are “safeguards in place” to prevent people from voting more than once. Polk County Auditor Jamie Fitzgerald similarly echoed those sentiments, telling The Des Moines Register that this was the first time he had to report potential voter fraud in 12 years.
Two other people were accused of attempting to vote twice by casting mail-in ballots in addition to voting in person, the publication reported, though neither of those suspects had been arrested.
Florida authorities also arrested two women accused of election fraud in separate cases, the Miami Herald reported. Coworkers turned in a woman after she was seen illegally marking ballots in support of a Republican mayoral candidate. Another woman filled out voter registration forms on behalf of an organization that supports marijuana legalization.
If Rote is the first Trump supporter to cast a double vote and get caught, she may not be the last. Just last week, the Republican presidential candidate suggested that his supporters commit voter fraud on his behalf.
Even some Republican leaders downplay the risk of voter fraud. And rightfully so. A study of one billion ballots cast between 2000 and 2014 found only 31 credible allegations of election fraud at the polls. And when Iowa’s Republican Secretary of State conducted a two-year investigation, he only found at most “134 incidents out of nearly 1.6 million votes cast. None of these incidents involved voter impersonation at the polls,” ThinkProgress previously reported.
The fear that undocumented immigrants would commit voter fraud is also generally irrational. It’s already pretty difficult for some undocumented immigrants to get identification cards beyond the 12 states and District of Columbia that allow the population to drive. And undocumented immigrants could face not only jail time, but deportation if they’re caught.
While Trump has built up his supporters’ fear of voter fraud, it may appear instead that voter intimidation is on the rise. Trump has previously called for his supporters to watch polling places in cities like Detroit and Philadelphia, urban areas with large populations of black voters where there is little to no support for him. This may in turn inspire his supporters to harass and discourage legitimate, but infrequent voters from taking part in the democratic process.