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Election fraud? Here’s what you can do about it

Voting booths set up in a big empty room.
Ryan Van Velzer

As Election Day rolls around on Tuesday, so might concerns about possible election fraud.

The Kentucky Attorney General is responsible for investigating allegations of election law violations. On Election Day, the attorney general operates a hotline that’s open and staffed from 6a.m. to 7p.m.

The office investigates allegations related to campaign violations, vote buying, electioneering, exit polling and more.

Election experts say voting fraud is rare — and doesn’t fit the stereotype of ballot box stuffing.

Still, each complaint is investigated, said Eric Finke, an assistant attorney general.

“We understand that different voters have different concerns, so we welcome any and all calls and would tell them if they have the slightest bit of concern, go ahead and call us and we'll try to put them in touch with the right person.” Finke said.

As of Monday, 55 pre-election day complaints have been fielded by the hotline, according to the attorney general’s website. Most complaints are listed as a legal or procedural issue. Jefferson County, Fayette County, and Madison County, have the most complaints so far.

Officials with the attorney general’s office did not provide more details on what, specifically, the complaints relate to.

At this point during the 2022 General Election, the hotline had received more than 100 phone calls with concerns about voter fraud, according to Shellie May, spokesperson for the attorney general’s office.

Josh Douglas, a law professor at the University of Kentucky, had one main point that people need to know.

“Fraud is extremely rare,” Douglas said.

Claims of fraud don't prove its existence, he said. Proving fraud means proving a negative — which Douglas likened to looking for monsters under the bed. He said there are isolated incidents of actual fraud that are caught, but he stressed — it’s rare.

“The other thing to note is that election officials are very attuned to concerns about running the election in a free and fair manner,” Douglas said. “We're looking for it, we have systems set up to deter it, and to find it, if it exists. Kentuckians do not need to be worried about the sanctity of the election.”

Stephen Voss, a political science professor at the University of Kentucky, said the closest thing a voter might recognize as fraud is if someone was voting at the wrong polling location or if they’re a convicted felon who hasn’t completed all their sentence or may have been convicted of a crime that doesn’t currently allow their voting rights to be restored.

“Political scientists and election specialists have found very little evidence of the popular image of voter fraud, the sort of thing that could swing large scale elections,” Voss said.

A rare, recent case of an election law violation that led to criminal charges happened in Monroe County in south central Kentucky. There, during the 2022 primary, the Kentucky Attorney General indicted seven people that were accused of running a vote-buying scheme.

One of the men indicted, James Jackson, a Monroe County constable at the time, lost his bid to be the county’s jailer

The case is now awaiting jury trial in the Monroe County circuit court.

“That's a perfect case example of everything went right in that case in terms of the reporting process,” Finke said.

And it started with a phone call to the attorney general’s hotline.

If a Kentucky voter has concerns about possible election law violations, they can call 800-328-VOTE, which is 800-328-8683.

Investigative Reporter Lily Burris is a corps member with Report For America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Email Lily at lburris@lpm.org.