Federal Election Law Crimes, Penalties, and Defenses
Protecting the United States election system is critically important to ensure government officials are not using unethical or illegal methods for support, such as promising someone a government position in exchange for their political support, activity, and financial contributions.
Simply put, it's crucial to any functioning democracy that elections are free and fair. Numerous federal laws address the issues of voter fraud and election fraud. When it comes to election law, the feds are very serious about making sure that no one is doing anything illegal related to election laws.
This illegality can take the form of paying somebody for their vote or paying somebody for their signature. The feds, not the state, will typically prosecute any activity involving improper actions related to an official election.
If you or a loved one is facing criminal election-related federal charges, pick up the phone. Ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding. I've been doing this now for nearly 30 years, and I know what it takes actually to prove a federal election law violation.
Our federal criminal defense lawyers will take a closer look at the relevant laws below.
What is Election Fraud?
Simply put, this crime involves unlawful, illegal conduct related to an election process. It could include criminal acts by election officials or acts done by other people that threaten the integrity of the election process. There are numerous types of election fraud:
- voters obtaining and marking ballots,
- counting of votes,
- voter registration,
- ineligible votes,
- rejection of valid votes,
- tampering with ballots,
- falsification of election returns,
- falsely reporting votes,
- tamper with ballot boxes or voting equipment.
When misconduct occurs within the election process, it usually means helping a particular political party get a candidate in power that can help them advance their political agendas.
What is Voter Fraud?
Voter fraud usually involves unlawful voting by an individual. Somebody can commit voter fraud in different ways, such as intentionally and knowingly:
- registering to vote using a false name or address,
- casting more than one vote in the same election,
- casting a vote in the name of an ineligible voter, such as deceased,
- votes with a fraudulent ballot,
- votes when they are ineligible, such as an undocumented alien,
- ineligible to vote due to a felony conviction.
To convict someone of voter fraud, a prosecutor must prove the person who committed voter fraud did so intentionally or knowingly, not by mistake.
What Are Federal Statutes Connected to Election Crimes?
Several federal statutes associated with election crimes include patronage crimes, campaign finance crimes, and civil rights crimes. Some of the rules include:
- 18 USC § 241 – conspiracy against rights and voter suppression,
- 18 USC § 242 – deprivation of rights under color of law,
- 18 USC § 594 – intimidation of voters,
- 18 USC § 597 – expenditures to influence voting,
- 18 USC § 599 – a promise of appointment by a candidate,
- 18 USC § 600 – a promise of employment for political activity,
- 18 USC § 602 – improper solicitation of political contributions,
- 18 USC § 603 – improper political contributions,
- 18 USC § 606 – intimidation to obtain political contribution,
- 18 USC § 607 – a place of solicitation,
- 18 USC § 610 – coercion of political activity,
- 18 USC § 611 – voting by undocumented aliens,
- 52 USC § 20511(2) – fraudulent registration or voting,
- 52 USC § 1030(e) – voting multiple times,
- 52 USC § 20511(1) – intimidation on voting,
- 52 USC § 30116 – limitations on contributions and expenditures,
- 52 USC § 30119 – contributions by government contractors,
- 52 USC § 30121 – contribution from foreign nationals,
- 52 USC § 30123 – limitations on the contribution of money,
- 52 USC § 30124 – misrepresentation of campaign authority,
- The Hatch Act,
- Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Defending Election Offenses
First, we will look at the specific statute that the government is trying to use to prosecute you. Often, I see that someone else is committing the acts they are claiming are election fraud, not you, and they're trying to attribute that person's activities towards you.
So, then the issue becomes, did you know or did you reasonably know under the circumstances that the person was acting in violation of some federal law related to an election, or do you have a defense? I had no idea what these people were doing — they were operating on their own and, therefore, I am not responsible.
A lot of these cases are tough to prove for the feds, and that's why I usually see very long investigations because they know as soon as they arrest or file a case against somebody, that person is going to try to squiggle off the hook and claim that they're innocent. So, they will try to close all doors for an individual to do that.
They're going to talk to everybody involved. They're going to get statements from anybody involved. Often, they will wiretap and surveil people to corroborate whatever theory they have regarding the federal election law violation.
So, once we go over the statute, we will compare what evidence they have against you as far as what they're claiming you did, how strong that evidence is, and whether or not that is some election law violation.
Sometimes these guys try to jam a square block into a circle and force somebody to swallow this type of offense when they don't have the evidence to prove it.
Review of the Specific Details
I say that because most people associated with elections- especially those running for government office- are smart enough not to do or say anything that would be a federal crime.
Usually, I see them getting caught when other people are doing things, and then those people are getting caught themselves and claiming that the official is the one who put them up to it or somebody close to the official.
Typically, the only time we'll see people getting caught in some sort of an election law violation at the federal level is if they can get wiretaps.
They need probable cause to do that. They can then hear the specific players and targets involved in conversations that make it clear that those people are trying to do something illegal related to an election.
So, if you need the best, you've come to the right place. Pick up the phone. We'll sit down and talk about everything and get a game plan together about how we can represent you in your federal election law criminal case. Hedding Law Firm is located in Los Angeles County, and we offer a free case consultation.