Free and fair democratic elections are one of the founding pillars of the United States. The FBI is committed to protecting every eligible citizen’s right to vote. Consistent with past practice, the FBI is providing this information to educate voters about Federal election crimes and how to avoid them, and to encourage voters to report suspected violations to your local FBI field office.
Election crimes threaten the integrity of elections and undermine public confidence in our democracy. Election crimes fall into broad categories:
- Ballot/voter fraud
- Campaign finance violations
- Civil rights violations, such as voter suppression or voter intimidation
While individual states and localities have the constitutional authority and responsibility to manage their own elections and election laws, an election crime becomes a federal crime when one or more of the following occurs:
- A ballot includes one or more Federal candidates
- Election or polling place officials abuse their office
- The conduct involves false voter registration
- The crime is motivated by hostility toward protected minority groups
- The activity violates federal campaign finance law
Examples of Federal election crimes include, but are not limited to:
- Giving false information when registering to vote
- Voting more than once
- Changing ballot markings or otherwise tampering with ballots
- Vote buying
- Threatening voters with physical or financial harm
- Intentionally lying about the time, manner, or place of an election to prevent qualified voters from voting
- Political fundraising by federal employees
- Campaign contributions above legal limits
Conduit contributions/straw donor schemes
- Contributions from foreign or other prohibited sources
- Use of campaign funds for personal or unauthorized purposes
Distinguishing between legal and criminal conduct is critical for ensuring the integrity of U.S. elections.
The following activities are not federal election crimes:
- Giving voters rides to the polls or time off to vote
- Offering voters a stamp to mail a ballot
- Making false claims about oneself or another candidate
- Forging or faking nominating petitions
- Campaigning too close to polling places
- Honest mistakes by poll workers
- Lack of immediate election results while ballots are counted
The FBI plays an important role in preventing violations of your constitutional rights, including your right to vote. Report any instances of potential election crimes to your local FBI field office, and ask to speak to an election crimes coordinator.
Intentionally deceiving qualified voters to prevent them from voting is voter suppression—and it is a federal crime.
There are various methods which can be used to spread disinformation about voting. Such methods are social media platforms, texting, or peer-to-peer messaging applications on smartphones. Additionally, bad actors may provide misleading information about the time, manner and place of voting. This includes inaccurate election dates or false claims about voting methods like, voting by text, which is not allowed in any jurisdiction.
Do you know when, where, and how you will vote? If not, there are many reputable places you can find this information, including eac.gov and usa.gov/how-to-vote. However, not all publicly available voting information is accurate, and some is deliberately designed to deceive you in order to suppress turnout.
Always consider the source of voting information. Ask yourself, “Can I trust this information?” Look for official notices from election offices and verify the information you found is accurate.
Help defend the right to vote by reporting any suspected instances of voter suppression—especially those received through a private communication channel like texting—to your local FBI field office and ask to speak to an election crimes coordinator.
Making political contributions can be a powerful way to exercise your First Amendment rights. But some individuals and groups soliciting contributions are bad actors trying to enrich themselves at your expense.
In every election cycle there are billions of dollars invested in political spending. This attracts criminals who use deception to cheat Americans out of their hard-earned money. The FBI assesses that seniors are at a high risk of being targeted.
Scam PACs are fraudulent political action committees designed to reroute political contributions for personal financial gain. This is a federal crime. Signs that a PAC is a scam include the PAC and its website disappearing, and the phone number going out of service.
If you or someone you know has been targeted by a scam PAC, contact your local FBI field office and ask to speak to an election crimes coordinator.
How to Protect Your Vote
- Know when, where, and how you will vote.
- Seek out election information from trustworthy sources, verify who produced the content, and consider their intent.
- Report potential election crimes—such as disinformation about the manner, time, or place of voting—to the FBI.
- If appropriate, make use of in-platform tools offered by social media companies for reporting suspicious posts that appear to be spreading false or inconsistent information about voting and elections.
- Research individuals and entities to whom you are making political donations. If something seems suspicious, reconsider the donation.
Victim Reporting and Additional Information
The FBI encourages the public to report information concerning suspicious or criminal activity to their local FBI field office. For additional election-related assistance and resources, please visit the following FBI webpages: