Electoral fraud, sometimes referred to as election fraud, election manipulation or vote rigging, is illegal interference with the process of an election, either by increasing the vote share of the favored candidate, depressing the vote share of the rival candidates, or both. What exactly constitutes electoral fraud varies from country to country.
Many kinds of election fraud are outlawed in electoral legislations, but others are in violation of general laws, such as those banning assault, harassment or libel. Although technically the term "electoral fraud" covers only those acts which are illegal, the term is sometimes used to describe acts which are legal, but considered morally unacceptable, outside the spirit of an election or in violation of the principles of democracy. Show elections, containing only one candidate, are sometimes classified as electoral fraud, although they may comply with the law and are presented more as referendums.
In national elections, successful electoral fraud can have the effect of a coup d'état, democracy protest or corruption of democracy. In a narrow election, a small amount of fraud may be enough to change the result. Even if the outcome is not affected, the revelation of fraud can reduce voters' confidence in democracy. In April 2020, a 20-year voter fraud study by MIT University found the level of fraud "exceedingly rare" since it occurs only in "0.00006 percent" of instances nationally, and, in one state, "0.000004 percent — about five times less likely than getting hit by lightning in the United States."
It is common for parties forced into opposition to accuse any party that wins an election of electoral fraud of some form. Kenya's first multi-party election in 26 years was impaired by the cancellation of polls in several constituencies as a result of suspected ballot rigging in 1992. In some instances, parliamentary and presidential ballot boxes were mixed up and polling stations were opened past scheduled hours. Some Kenyan officials were accused of advantageously filling in ballots for citizens unable to complete them themselves. Benazir Bhutto, former prime minister of Pakistan, accused her rival of buying votes in order to displace her in 1990. Mexico's 1991 victory of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party resulted in charges of ballot rigging raised by the opposition, despite government assurances of new electoral machinery designed to eliminate fraud that had long plagued Mexico's political system. President Yeltsin of Russia was accused of rigging the national elections in 1993, partly by banning parties because they had not met registration requirements. In 1993 the Republican Party in New Jersey (USA) was accused of paying church ministers to discourage black, pro-Democrat participation in the state elections. In 1994 international observers reported irregularities in the presidential election in Serbia.