Is voter fraud real or a myth? Here are the actual statistics

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The election is not rigged, no matter how many times Republican nominee Donald Trump says it is. While the candidate has prematurely blamed his possible loss on a number of factors — from the media to Hillary Clinton to election officials fixing the results — voter fraud is largely a myth. It almost never happens.

What is voter fraud?

Voter fraud comes in many forms, all of which involve an effort to interfere with the outcome of an election. Fraudulent voters might cast two ballots in one election, whether by impersonating someone at the polls or by registering multiple times under false names, or by posing as a deceased person.

Related: Voting begins across the US

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A sign indicating no phones are allowed in ballot booths is displayed as a man casts his ballot during early voting at the San Diego County Elections Office in San Diego, California, U.S., November 7, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
An attendee holds a sign reading 'Nasty Women Vote' during of a campaign event with Hillary Clinton, 2016 Democratic presidential nominee, in Detroit, Michigan, U.S., on Friday, Nov. 4, 2016. As the U.S. presidential race heads into its final weekend, Donald Trump is showing strength in Iowa and Ohio pre-Election Day voting, while Clinton's advantage in early balloting looks stronger in North Carolina and Nevada. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A man holds his ballot sleeve as he lines up to vote at an early voting polling centre in Miami, Florida on November 3, 2016. / AFP / RHONA WISE (Photo credit should read RHONA WISE/AFP/Getty Images)
A line of early voters waits outside the Franklin County Board of Elections, Monday, Nov. 7, 2016, in Columbus, Ohio. Heavy turnout has caused long lines as voters take advantage of their last opportunity to vote before election day. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
FILE - In this Oct. 24, 2016 file photo, people vote at a polling station on the first day of early voting in Miami-Dade County for the general election in Miami. Florida voters decide Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016, whether Marco Rubio should serve a second term, medical marijuana should be legalized and to pick at least eight new U.S. House members. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File)
A child watches as a polling worker waves over an early voter to an open booth at the Franklin County Board of Elections, Monday, Nov. 7, 2016, in Columbus, Ohio. Heavy turnout has caused long lines as voters take advantage of their last opportunity to vote before election day. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Paul Mosher takes a selfie after voting at the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters, Friday, Nov. 4, 2016, in San Jose , Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
A young boy stretches as he stands next to a woman filling out her ballot during early voting at a polling station inside Truman College on October 31, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. / AFP / Joshua Lott (Photo credit should read JOSHUA LOTT/AFP/Getty Images)
A man walks past the Early Vote Center in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota on October 5, 2016. Voters in Minnesota can submit their ballot for the General Election at locations across the state every day until Election Day on November 8, 2016. / AFP / STEPHEN MATUREN (Photo credit should read STEPHEN MATUREN/AFP/Getty Images)
PORTLAND, ME - OCTOBER 18: Early voters in Portland. Kaila Moore, left, and Justin Chamberlain, both of Portland, seal their ballots after voting early at City Hall on Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2016. (Photo by Derek Davis/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 18: Residents cast ballots for the November 8 election at an early voting site on October 18, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. With three weeks to go until election day, polls show Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton with a lead over GOP rival Donald Trump. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Voters cast ballots as early absentee voting began ahead of the U.S. presidential election in Medina, Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. October 12, 2016. REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk
US President Barack Obama votes early at the Cook County Office Building in Chicago, Illinois, October 7, 2016. Obama cast an early ballot on Friday, highlighting a Democratic drive to get voters to the polls even before November 8. During an unannounced visit, Obama stood before a voting machine at the Chicago Board of Elections office, punched in his choice and smirked when asked who he had voted for. / AFP / JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Poll workers look on as US President Barack Obama (C) gestures towards the press as he votes early at the Cook County Office Building in Chicago, Illinois, October 7, 2016. Obama cast an early ballot on Friday, highlighting a Democratic drive to get voters to the polls even before November 8. During an unannounced visit, Obama stood before a voting machine at the Chicago Board of Elections office, punched in his choice and smirked when asked who he had voted for. / AFP / JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
A man registers to vote at the Early Vote Center in northeast Minneapolis, Minnesota on October 5, 2016. Voters in Minnesota can submit their ballot for the General Election at locations across the state every day until Election Day on November 8, 2016. / AFP / STEPHEN MATUREN (Photo credit should read STEPHEN MATUREN/AFP/Getty Images)
Joseph and Maria Caruso vote inside the Early Vote Center in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota after work on October 5, 2016. Voters in Minnesota can submit their ballot for the General Election at locations across the state every day until Election Day on November 8, 2016. / AFP / STEPHEN MATUREN (Photo credit should read STEPHEN MATUREN/AFP/Getty Images)
A bucket of 'I Voted' stickers inside the Early Vote Center in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota on October 5, 2016. Voters in Minnesota can submit their ballot for the General Election at locations across the state every day until Election Day on November 8, 2016. / AFP / STEPHEN MATUREN (Photo credit should read STEPHEN MATUREN/AFP/Getty Images)
A young boy tags along at a voting booth as early voting beings at the Hamilton County Board of Elections, Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2016, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
James Chambers deposits his vote into a ballot box at the Hamilton County Board of Elections as early voting begins statewide, Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2016, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
A voter passes a ballot box as she arrives at the Hamilton County Board of Elections as early voting begins statewide, Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2016, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - SEPTEMBER 23: Signage at an early voting center on September 23, 2016 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Minnesota residents can vote in the general election every day until Election Day on November 8. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - SEPTEMBER 23: Minneapolis resident Robin Marty takes a selfie with an 'I Voted' sign after voting early at the Northeast Early Voting Center on September 23, 2016 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Minnesota residents can vote in the general election every day until Election Day on November 8. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)
Laika (last name not given) poses for a portrait with his 'I Voted! Did You?' wrist band after voting early at a polling station inside Truman College on October 31, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. / AFP / Joshua Lott (Photo credit should read JOSHUA LOTT/AFP/Getty Images)
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Voter fraud can also occur when candidates or their minions attempt to buy votes, or when election officials manipulate the votes cast. An attempt to keep a group of people from voting is also considered voter fraud.

That last point is interesting, given that voter ID laws — which GOP proponents will argue exist to prevent people from voting twice — appear to have a disproportionately negative effect on people of color. Take Texas, for example: In July, a federal court ruled that the state's requirement that a voter produce one of seven forms of government-issued photo identification violated the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Many minorities either couldn't afford or couldn't obtain the requisite identification to vote, which left some 600,000 Texans who were eligible to cast their ballots unable to do so.

In other states, like North Carolina, courts have ruled that voter ID laws purposefully discriminate against minority voters, keeping them away from the polls. So when Trump rails against voter fraud, it's odd, considering that voter ID laws are a tenet of his party's platform.

Is voter fraud a myth?

Even in the face of evidence that suggests otherwise, Trump persists with his claim that the Democrats are the main agents of voter fraud. In the 2016 election, however, efforts at infiltrating the ballot box have largely come from Trump supporters — or Trump himself.

Just last week, a band of merry internet trolls looking to Make America Great Again circulated false ads on Twitter encouraging Clinton supporters not to wait until Nov. 8 to cast their ballots, but to text their votes to a fake number where they would never be counted. If the election were rigged, it would seem that Trump supporters are the ones rigging it.

And yet the numbers indicate that voter fraud is incredibly rare. According to NBC, a News21 analysis of 2,068 instances of alleged fraud nationwide during the elections between 2000 and 2012 pinpointed just 10 cases of voter impersonation in a pool of about 146 million total voters.

In 2007, the New York Times published results of a five-year review of voter fraud allegations. It found "virtually no evidence of any organized effort to skew federal elections," noting that while about 120 people had been charged with voter fraud, only 86 had been convicted. Further, many of those convictions appeared to result from legitimate mistakes — such as improperly completed paperwork — either on the part of the voter or election officials, rather than concerted efforts to game the system.

Justin Levitt, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, tracked voter fraud for many years. In a 2014 Washington Post article, Levitt wrote that he'd pinpointed 31 cases of voter fraud since 2000. He counted "general, primary, special and municipal elections," noting that general elections and primaries generated over 1 billion ballots in those 14 years. Based on Levitt's findings, the incidence of voter fraud is so low as to be negligible.

He's not the only one to come to that conclusion, either. The Washington Post has a fun interactive graphic that illustrates just how rare in-person voter fraud is. (The short answer: very.)

There seems to be another explanation for Trump's tantrums. According to Columbia University professor Lorraine C. Minnite, we can attribute the paranoia over voter fraud, at least in part, to "unsubstantiated or false claims by the loser of a close race."

And indeed, it seems unlikely that Trump would continue to rant about voter fraud if he enjoyed a comfortable lead. Unfortunately for him, he doesn't.

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