Almost no one shows up at the polls pretending to be someone else in an effort to throw an election. Almost no one acts as a poll worker on Election Day to try to cast illegal votes for a candidate. And almost no general election race in recent history has been close enough to have been thrown by the largest example of in-person voter fraud on record. That said, there have been examples of fraud, including fraud perpetrated through the use of absentee ballots severe enough to force new elections at the state level. But the slew of new laws passed over the past few years meant to address voter fraud have overwhelmingly focused on the virtually non-existent/unproven type of voter fraud, and not the still-not-common-but-not-non-existent abuse of absentee voting. In August, Justin Levitt, a professor at Loyola University Law School, detailed for Wonkblog 31 instances of documented, in-person voter fraud that would have been prevented by stricter rules around identification at the polling place. The most severe instance Levitt outlined involved as many as 24 voters in Brooklyn who tried to vote under assumed names.
There are almost no elections in which 24 votes makes a significant difference, particularly at the federal level. The graph below compares the vote total and the margin of victory for every race with less than a million votes in general elections since 2006.
Most elections, understandably, have margins of victory well into the thousands. So here are all of the House races with a margin of victory under 20,000 since 2006. The five solid-colored dots are those in which the margin of victory was 500 or less. No race was within a 24-vote margin.
Senate races generally have a much larger total vote count. There were nine Senate races in that time period that had a margin of under 20,000 votes, including one — the 2008 Senate race in Minnesota — that was settled by about 300 votes. It’s marked in blue on the graph, and we’ll come back to it.