First Time Voter
Electoral fraud is illegal interference with the process of an election. Acts of fraud tend to involve affecting vote counts to bring about a desired election outcome, whether by increasing the vote share of the favored candidate, depressing the vote share of the rival candidates, or both. Exactly what constitutes electoral fraud under law varies from country to country; methods which are illegal in one country may not be in another. Many kinds of voter fraud are outlawed in specific electoral legislation, but others are in violation of more general laws such as those banning assault, harrassment or libel. Although technically the term 'electoral fraud' covers only those acts which are specifically illegal, the term is sometimes used to describe acts which, although legal, are considered to be morally unacceptable, outside the spirit of electoral laws or in violation of the principles of democracy. Show elections, in which only one candidate has a real chance of winning, are sometimes considered to be electoral fraud although they may comply fully with local laws.
Especially with national elections, successful electoral fraud can have the effect of a coup d'état or corruption of democracy. In a narrow election a small amount of fraud may be enough to change the overall outcome. However even if the outcome is not affected fraud can still have a damaging effect if not punished, as it can reduce voters' confidence in democracy. Even the perception of fraud can be damaging as it makes people less inclined to accept the outcome of elections. In extreme cases this can lead to the breakdown of democracy and the establishment of a dictatorship.
Electoral fraud is not limited to political polls and can happen in any kind of election where the potential gain is worth the risk for the cheater, as in elections for labor union officials, student councils, sports judging, and the awarding of merit to books, films, music, or television programming.
Despite many known instances of electoral fraud, it remains a difficult phenomenon to study and characterize. This follows from its inherent illegality. Harsh penalties aimed at deterring electoral fraud make it likely that any individuals who perpetrate acts of fraud do so with the expectation that it either will not be discovered or will be excused after the fact.