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|Corruption by country|
|Oceania and the Pacific|
Electoral fraud or vote rigging is illegal interference with the process of an election. Acts of fraud affect vote counts to bring about an election result, whether by increasing the vote share of the favored candidate, depressing the vote share of the rival candidates, or both. What constitutes electoral fraud under law varies from country to country.
Many kinds of election fraud are outlawed in electoral legislation, 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 nevertheless considered morally unacceptable, outside the spirit of electoral laws, or in violation of the principles of democracy. Show elections, in which only one candidate can win, are sometimes considered to be electoral fraud, although they may comply with the law.
In 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 result. 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 election results. Fraudulent elections can lead to the breakdown of democracy and the establishment or ratification of a dictatorship.
Fraud in elections is not limited to those for public office (and also shades even into castings of votes where only an honorary role is at stake) so long as a cheater perceives a potential gain as worth the risk. Thus elections for a corporation's directors, labor union officials, student councils, etc. are subject to similar fraud, as are sports judging, and the awarding of merit to works of art and literature.
- 1 Specific methods
- 1.1 Electorate manipulation
- 1.2 Intimidation
- 1.3 Vote buying
- 1.4 Misinformation
- 1.5 Misleading or confusing ballot papers
- 1.6 Ballot stuffing
- 1.7 Misrecording of votes
- 1.8 Misuse of proxy votes
- 1.9 Destruction or invalidation of ballots
- 1.10 Tampering with electronic voting machines
- 1.11 Voter impersonation
- 2 Vote fraud in legislature
- 3 Prevention
- 4 Notable legislation
- 5 See also
- 6 Further reading
- 7 References
- 8 External links
|Part of the Politics series|
Electoral fraud can occur in advance of voting if the composition of the electorate is altered. The legality of this type of manipulation varies across jurisdictions. Deliberate manipulation of election outcomes is widely considered a violation of the principles of democracy.
Manipulation of demography
In many cases it is possible for authorities to artificially control the composition of an electorate in order to produce a foregone result. A famous example is of Kuwait in the 1980s elections.[clarification needed] One way of doing this, is to move a large number of voters into the electorate prior to an election, for example by temporarily assigning them land or lodging them in flophouses. Many countries prevent this with rules stipulating that a voter must have lived in an electorate for a minimum period (for example, six months) in order to be eligible to vote there. However, such laws can themselves be used for demographic manipulation as they tend to disenfranchise those with no fixed address, such as the homeless, travelers, Roma, students (studying full-time away from home) and some casual workers.
Another strategy is to permanently move people into an electorate, usually through public housing. If people eligible for public housing are likely to vote for a particular party, then they can either be concentrated into one electorate, thus making their votes count for less, or moved into marginal electorates, where they may tip the balance towards their preferred party. One notable example of this occurred in the City of Westminster under Shirley Porter.
Immigration law may also be used to manipulate electoral demography. An example of this happened in Malaysia when immigrants from neighboring Philippines and Indonesia were given citizenship, together with voting rights, in order for a political party to "dominate" the state of Sabah in a controversial process referred to as Project IC.
A method of manipulating primary contests and other elections of party leaders is related to this. People who support one party may temporarily join another party in order to help elect a weak candidate for that party's leadership, in the hope that they will be defeated by the leader of the party that they secretly support.
The composition of an electorate may also be altered by disenfranchising some types of people, rendering them unable to vote. In some cases, this may be done at a legislative level, for example by passing a law banning prison inmates (or even former prison inmates), recent immigrants or members of a particular ethnic or religious group from voting, or by instituting a literacy or other test which members of some groups are more likely to fail. Since this is done by lawmakers, it cannot be election fraud, but may subvert the purposes of democracy. This is especially so if members of the disenfranchised group were particularly likely to vote a certain way.
In some cases voters may be invalidly disenfranchised, which is true electoral fraud. For example a legitimate voter may be 'accidentally' removed from the electoral roll, making it difficult or impossible for the person to vote. Corrupt election officials may misuse voting regulations such as a literacy test or requirement for proof of identity or address in such a way as to make it difficult or impossible for their targets to cast a vote. If such practices discriminate against a religious or ethnic group, they may so distort the political process that the political order becomes grossly unrepresentative, as in the post-Reconstruction or Jim Crow era until the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Groups may also be disenfranchised by rules which make it impractical or impossible for them to cast a vote. For example, requiring people to vote within their electorate may disenfranchise serving military personnel, prison inmates, students, hospital patients or anyone else who cannot return to their homes. Polling can be set for inconvenient days such as midweek or on Holy Days (example: Sabbath or other holy days of a religious group whose teachings determine that voting is a prohibited on such a day) in order to make voting difficult for those studying or working away from home. Communities may also be effectively disenfranchised if polling places are not provided within reasonable proximity (rural communities are especially vulnerable to this) or situated in areas perceived by some voters as unsafe.
A particular example of this strategy is the Canadian federal election of 1917, where the Union government passed the Military Voters Act and the Wartime Elections Act. The Military Voters Act permitted any active military personnel to vote by party only and allow that party to decide in which electoral district to place that vote. It also enfranchised women who were directly related or married to an active soldier. These groups were widely assumed to be disproportionately in favor of the Union government, as that party was campaigning in favor of conscription. The Wartime Elections Act, conversely, disenfranchised particular ethnic groups assumed to be disproportionately in favor of the opposition Liberal Party.
In 2012, 10 American states passed laws requiring photo ID at the ballot box, citing protection against electoral fraud. However, a study by the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University Law School concluded that minorities, the poor and the elderly are less likely to have photo ID, and that such groups were more likely to live long distances from ID-issuing offices. Additionally, partisan politics has been exposed as a major factor in the introduction of voter ID legislation, as such legislation would disenfranchise many people who vote for Democratic Party nominees, benefiting the Republican Party in elections.
Division of opposition support
Stanford University professor Beatriz Magaloni described a model governing the behavior of autocratic regimes. She proposed that ruling parties can maintain political control under a democratic system without actively manipulating votes or coercing the electorate. Under the right conditions, the democratic system is maneuvered into an equilibrious state in which divided opposition parties act as unwitting accomplices to single-party rule. This permits the ruling regime to abstain from illegal electoral fraud.
During the 2016 United States Republican presidential primary season, following the revelation that Republican candidate Donald Trump had discussed the possibility of his campaign with Bill Clinton — husband of front-running Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton — opposing candidates and news media outlets suggested that Trump's campaign might be a fraudulent ploy to divide support for the eventual Republican nominee. After signing a September 2015 pledge not to run as an independent candidate, Trump threatened to rescind the pledge in December.
Voter intimidation involves putting undue pressure on a voter or group of voters so that they will vote a particular way, or not at all. Absentee and other remote voting can be more open to some forms of intimidation as the voter does not have the protection and privacy of the polling location. Intimidation can take a range of forms.
- Violence or the threat of violence: In its simplest form, voters from a particular demographic or known to support a particular party or candidate are directly threatened by supporters of another party or candidate or by those hired by them. In other cases, supporters of a particular party make it known that if a particular village or neighborhood is found to have voted the 'wrong' way, reprisals will be made against that community. Another method is to make a general threat of violence, for example a bomb threat which has the effect of closing a particular polling place, thus making it difficult for people in that area to vote. One notable example of outright violence was the 1984 Rajneeshee bioterror attack, where followers of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh deliberately contaminated salad bars in The Dalles, Oregon, in an attempt to weaken political opposition during county elections.
- Attacks on polling places: Polling places in an area known to support a particular party or candidate may be targeted for vandalism, destruction or threats, thus making it difficult or impossible for people in that area to vote.
- Legal threats: In this case voters will be made to believe, accurately or otherwise, that they are not legally entitled to vote, or that they are legally obliged to vote a particular way. Voters who are not confident about their entitlement to vote may also be intimidated by real or implied authority figures who suggest that those who vote when they are not entitled to will be imprisoned, deported or otherwise punished. For example in 2004, in Wisconsin and elsewhere voters allegedly received flyers that said, "If you already voted in any election this year, you can’t vote in the Presidential Election", implying that those who had voted in earlier primary elections were ineligible to vote. Also, "If anybody in your family has ever been found guilty of anything you can’t vote in the Presidential Election." Finally, "If you violate any of these laws, you can get 10 years in prison and your children will be taken away from you." Another method, allegedly used in Cook County, Illinois in 2004, is to falsely tell particular people that they are not eligible to vote.
The most famous episodes of vote buying came in 18th century England, when two or more rich aristocrats spent whatever money it took to win. The notorious "Spendthrift election" came in Northamptonshire in 1768, when three earls spent over ₤100,000 each to win a seat.
Voters may be given money or other rewards for voting in a particular way, or not voting. In some jurisdictions, the offer or giving of other rewards is referred to as "electoral treating". Electoral treating remains legal in some jurisdictions, such as in the Seneca Nation of Indians.
People may distribute false or misleading information in order to affect the outcome of an election. For example, in the Chilean Presidential election of 1970 the Central Intelligence Agency used "black propaganda"—materials purporting to be from various political parties—to sow discord between members of a coalition between socialists and communists.
Another way in which misinformation can be used is to give voters incorrect information about the time or place of polling, thus causing them to miss their chance to vote. The Democratic Party of Wisconsin alleged that Americans for Prosperity engaged in this when a flier printed in August 2011 gave an incorrect return date for absentee ballots - Americans for Prosperity alleged it was a misprint. As part of the 2011 Canadian federal election voter suppression scandal, Elections Canada traced fraudulent phone calls telling voters that their polling stations had been moved to a telecommunications company which worked for the Conservative Party. More recently in 2014, Americans for Prosperity were again accused of distributing voter misinformation, by mailing out incorrect or misleading information to hundreds of thousands of mailers which included the wrong deadline for voter registration and other inaccurate information. Americans for Prosperity Deputy Director Donald Bryson claimed the mailings were a mistake and that they had not paid enough attention to detail.
Misleading or confusing ballot papers
Ballot papers may be used to discourage votes for a particular party or candidate, using design or other features which confuse voters into voting for a different candidate. For example, in the 2000 U.S. presidential election, Florida's butterfly ballot paper was criticized as confusing some voters into giving their vote to the wrong candidate. Ironically, however, the ballot was designed by a Democrat, the party most harmed by this design. Poor or misleading design is not usually illegal and therefore not technically election fraud, but can subvert the principles of democracy.
A similar approach has been used in Sweden, where a system with separate ballots for each party is used. Ballots from Sweden Democrats have there been mixed with ballots from the bigger Swedish Social Democratic Party, which used a very similar font for the party name written on the top of the ballot.
Another method of confusing people into voting for a different candidate than they intended is to run candidates or create political parties with similar names or symbols as an existing candidate or party. The aim is that enough voters will be misled into voting for the false candidate or party to influence the results. Such tactics may be particularly effective when a large proportion of voters have limited literacy in the language used on the ballot paper. Again, such tactics are usually not illegal but often work against the principles of democracy.
Another way of possible electoral confusion, is multiple variations of voting by different electoral systems. This is unwittingly cause ballot papers to be invalid, if the wrong system is employed such as putting a first-past-the-post cross in a numbered single transferable vote ballot paper. For example in Scotland, there are four different voting systems employed. They are single transferable vote for local elections, additional member system for Scottish parliamentary elections, first-past-the-post for national elections & party list system in European elections.
Ballot stuffing is when one person submits multiple ballots during a vote in which only one ballot per person is permitted. The name originates from the earliest days of this practice in which people literally did stuff more than one ballot in a ballot box at the same time.
Ballot stuffing is possible with one version of the Sequoia touchscreen voting machine. It has a yellow button on the back side which when pressed allows repeated vote stuffing. By design, pressing the button triggers the emanation of two audible beeps.
Misrecording of votes
Many elections feature multiple opportunities for unscrupulous officials or 'helpers' to record an elector's vote differently from their intentions. Voters who require assistance to cast their votes are particularly vulnerable to having their votes stolen in this way. For example, a blind person or one who cannot read the language of the ballot paper may be told that they have voted for one party when in fact they have been led to vote for another. This is similar to the misuse of proxy votes; however in this case the voter will be under the impression that they have voted with the assistance of the other person, rather than having the other person voting on their behalf.
Where votes are recorded through electronic or mechanical means, the voting machinery may be altered so that a vote intended for one candidate is recorded for another.
Misuse of proxy votes
Proxy voting is particularly vulnerable to election fraud, due to the amount of trust placed in the person who casts the vote. In several countries there have been allegations of retirement home residents being asked to fill out 'absentee voter' forms. When the forms are signed and gathered, they are then secretly rewritten as applications for proxy votes, naming party activists or their friends and relatives as the proxies. These people, unknown to the voter, then cast the vote for the party of their choice. This trick relies on elderly care home residents typically being absent-minded, or suffering from dementia. In the United Kingdom, this is known as 'granny farming' and has been restricted in recent years by a change in the law which prevents a single voter acting as a proxy for more than two non-family members therefore requiring more people to be involved in any fraud.
Destruction or invalidation of ballots
One of the simplest methods of electoral fraud is to simply destroy ballots for the 'wrong' candidate or party. This is unusual in functioning democracies, as it is difficult to do without attracting attention. However in a very close election it might be possible to destroy a very small number of ballot papers without detection, thereby changing the overall result. Blatant destruction of ballot papers can render an election invalid and force it to be re-run. If a party can improve its vote on the re-run election, it can benefit from such destruction as long as it is not linked to it.
A more subtle, and easily achieved, method is to make it appear that the voter has spoiled his or her ballot, thus rendering it invalid. Typically this would be done by adding another mark to the paper, making it appear that the voter has voted for more candidates than they were entitled to. It would be difficult to do this to a large number of papers without detection, but in a close election may prove decisive.
Tampering with electronic voting machines
All voting systems face threats of some form of electoral fraud. The types of threats that affect voting machines can vary from other forms of voting systems, some threats may be prevented and others introduced.
Some forms of electoral fraud specific to electronic voting machines are listed below. Recent research at Argonne National Laboratories demonstrates that if a malicious actor is able to gain physical access to a voting machine, it can be a simple process to manipulate certain electronic voting machines, such as the Diebold Accuvote TS, by inserting inexpensive, readily available electronic components inside the machine.
- Tampering with the software of a voting machine to add malicious code altering vote totals or favor any candidate.
- Tampering with the hardware of the voting machine to alter vote totals or favor any candidate.
- Some of these machines require a smartcard to activate the machine and vote. However, a fraudulent smart card could attempt to gain access to vote multiple times.
- Abusing the administrative access to the machine by election officials might also allow individuals to vote multiple times.
- Election results that are sent directly over the internet from a county count center to the state count center can be vulnerable to a man-in-the-middle attack, where they are diverted to an intermediate web site where the man in the middle flips the votes in favor of a certain candidate and then immediately forwards them on to the state count center. All votes sent over the internet violate chain of custody and hence should be avoided by driving or flying memory cards in locked metal containers from county count centers to the state count center. For purposes of getting quick preliminary statewide results on election night, encrypted votes can be sent over the internet, but final official results should be tabulated the next day only after the actual memory cards arrive in secure metal containers and are counted.
Some commentators, such as former Federal Election Commission member Hans von Spakovsky, have claimed that voter impersonation fraud, in which one person votes by impersonating another, eligible voter, is widespread, a claim that others, such as Professor Larry Sabato, dismiss as "relatively rare".
Vote fraud in legislature
Vote fraud can also take place in legislatures. Some of the forms used in national elections can also be used in parliaments, particularly intimidation and vote-buying. Because of the much smaller number of voters, however, election fraud in legislatures is qualitatively different in many ways. Fewer people are needed to 'swing' the election, and therefore specific people can be targeted in ways impractical on a larger scale. For example, Adolf Hitler achieved his dictatorial powers due to the Enabling Act of 1933, and achieved the necessary two-thirds majority to pass the Act by arresting members of the opposition. Later, the Reichstag was packed with Nazi party members who voted for the Act's renewal.
In many legislatures, voting is public, in contrast to the secret ballot used in most modern public elections. This may make their elections more vulnerable to some forms of fraud, since a politician can be pressured by others who will know how he or she has voted. However, it may also protect against bribery and blackmail since the public and media will be aware if a politician votes in an unexpected way. Since voters and parties are entitled to pressure politicians to vote a particular way, the line between legitimate and fraudulent pressure is not always clear.
As in public elections, proxy votes are particularly prone to fraud. In some systems, parties may vote on behalf of any member who is not present in parliament. This protects those people from missing out on voting if they are prevented from attending parliament, but also allows their party to prevent them from voting against its wishes. In some legislatures, proxy voting is not allowed, but politicians may rig voting buttons or otherwise illegally cast 'ghost votes' while absent.
The two main strategies for the prevention of electoral fraud in society are: 1) deterrence through consistent and effective prosecution; 2) Cultivation of mores that discourage corruption. The two main fraud prevention tactics, ironically, can be summarized as secrecy and openness. The secret ballot prevents many kinds of intimidation and vote selling, while transparency at all other levels of the electoral process prevents and detects most interference.
The patterns of conventional behavior in a society or mores are an effective means for preventing electoral fraud and corruption in general. A good example is Sweden, where the culture has a strong tendency toward positive values,[neutrality is disputed] resulting in a low incidence of political corruption. Until recently Canada had a similar reputation, but the In and Out scandal of 2008 and the Robocall scandal of 2011 has tarnished Canada's electoral integrity.
An advantage of cultivating positive mores as a prevention strategy is that it is effective across all electoral systems and devices. A disadvantage is that it makes other prevention and detection efforts more difficult to implement because members of society generally have more trust and less of a sense for fraudulent methods.
The secret ballot, in which only the voter knows how individuals have voted, is a crucial part of ensuring free and fair elections through preventing voter intimidation or retribution. Although it was sometimes practiced in ancient Greece and was a part of the French Constitution of 1795, it only became common in the nineteenth century. Secret balloting appears to have been first implemented in the former British colony—now an Australian state—of Tasmania on 7 February 1856. By the turn of the century the practice had spread to most Western democracies. Before this, it was common for candidates to intimidate or bribe voters, as they would always know who had voted which way.
Most methods of preventing electoral fraud involve making the election process completely transparent to all voters, from nomination of candidates through casting of the votes and tabulation. A key feature in ensuring the integrity of any part of the electoral process is a strict chain of custody.
To prevent fraud in central tabulation, there has to be a public list of the results from every single polling place. This is the only way for voters to prove that the results they witnessed in their election office are correctly incorporated into the totals.
End-to-end auditable voting systems provide voters with a receipt to allow them to verify their vote was cast correctly, and an audit mechanism to verify that the results were tabulated correctly and all votes were cast by valid voters. However, the ballot receipt does not permit voters to prove to others how they voted, since this would open the door towards forced voting and blackmail. End-to-end systems include Punchscan and Scantegrity, the latter being an add-on to optical scan systems instead of a replacement.
In many cases, election observers are used to help prevent fraud and assure voters that the election is fair. International observers (bilateral and multilateral) may be invited to observe the elections (examples include election observation by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), European Union election observation missions, observation missions of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), as well as international observation organized by NGOs, such as CIS-EMO, European Network of Election Monitoring Organizations (ENEMO), etc.). Some countries also invite foreign observers (i.e. bi-lateral observation, as opposed to multi-lateral observation by international observers).
In addition, national legislatures of countries often permit domestic observation. Domestic election observers can be either partisan (i.e. representing interests of one or a group of election contestants) or non-partisan (usually done by civil society groups). Legislations of different countries permit various forms and extents of international and domestic election observation.
Election observation is also prescribed by various international legal instruments. For example, paragraph 8 of the 1990 Copenhagen Document states that "The [OSCE] participating States consider that the presence of observers, both foreign and domestic, can enhance the electoral process for States in which elections are taking place. They therefore invite observers from any other CSCE participating States and any appropriate private institutions and organizations who may wish to do so to observe the course of their national election proceedings, to the extent permitted by law. They will also endeavor to facilitate similar access for election proceedings held below the national level. Such observers will undertake not to interfere in the electoral proceedings".
Various forms of statistics can be indicators for election fraud e.g. exit polls which diverge from the final results. Well-conducted exit polls serve as a deterrent to electoral fraud. However, exit polls are still notoriously imprecise. For instance, in the Czech Republic, some voters are afraid or ashamed to admit that they voted for the Communist Party (exit polls in 2002 gave the Communist party 2-3 percentage points less than the actual result).
When elections are marred by ballot-box stuffing (e.g., the Armenian presidential elections of 1996 and 1998), the affected polling stations will show abnormally high voter turnouts with results favoring a single candidate. By graphing the number of votes against turnout percentage (i.e., aggregating polling stations results within a given turnout range), the divergence from bell-curve distribution gives an indication of the extent of the fraud. Stuffing votes in favor of a single candidate affects votes vs. turnout distributions for that candidate and other candidates differently; this difference could be used to quantitatively assess the amount of votes stuffed. Also, these distributions sometimes exhibit spikes at round-number turnout percentage values. High numbers of invalid ballots, overvoting or undervoting are other potential indicators.
In countries with strong laws and effective legal systems, lawsuits can be brought against those who have allegedly committed fraud; but the deterrent of legal prosecution would not be enough. Although the penalties for getting caught may be severe, the rewards for succeeding are likely to be worth the risk. The rewards range from benefits in contracting to total control of a country.
In the United States one such case was in Pennsylvania where Bill Stinson won an election based on fraudulent absentee ballots. The courts ruled that his opponent be seated in the state Senate as a result.
In the Philippines, former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was arrested in 2011 following the filing of criminal charges against her for electoral sabotage, in connection with the Philippine general election, 2007. She was accused of conspiring with election officials to ensure the victory of her party's senatorial slate in the province of Maguindanao, through the tampering of election returns.
Voting machine integrity
One method for verifying voting machine accuracy is Parallel Testing, the process of using an independent set of results compared against the original machine results. Parallel testing can be done prior to or during an election. During an election, one form of parallel testing is the VVPAT. This method is only effective if statistically significant numbers of voters verify that their intended vote matches both the electronic and paper votes.
On election day, a statistically significant number of voting machines can be randomly selected from polling locations and used for testing. This can be used to detect potential fraud or malfunction unless manipulated software would only start to cheat after a certain event like a voter pressing a special key combination (Or a machine might cheat only if someone doesn't perform the combination, which requires more insider access but fewer voters).
Another form of testing is Logic & Accuracy Testing (L&A), pre-election testing of voting machines using test votes to determine if they are functioning correctly.
Another method to insure the integrity of electronic voting machines is independent software verification and certification. Once software is certified, code signing can insure the software certified is identical to that which is used on election day. Some argue certification would be more effective if voting machine software was publicly available or open source.
Certification and testing processes conducted publicly and with oversight from interested parties can promote transparency in the election process. The integrity of those conducting testing can be questioned.
One method that people have argued would help prevent these machines from being tampered with would be for the companies that produce the machines to share the source code, which displays and captures the ballots, with computer scientists. This would allow external sources to make sure that the machines are working correctly.
Help America Vote Act
The Help America Vote Act (Pub.L. 107–252), or HAVA, is a United States federal law enacted on October 29, 2002. It was drafted (at least in part) in reaction to the controversy surrounding the 2000 U.S. presidential election, the goals of HAVA are: to replace punchcard and lever-based voting systems; create the Election Assistance Commission to assist in the administration of Federal elections; and establish minimum election administration standards.
Civil Rights Act of 1964
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Pub.L. 88–352, 78 Stat. 241, enacted July 2, 1964) was a landmark piece of legislation in the United States that outlawed major forms of discrimination against African Americans and women, including racial segregation and unequal application of voter registration requirements.
List of controversial and electorally dubious elections
- Argentine presidential election, 1937
- Mexican general election, 1988
- Peruvian national election, 2000  and 
- Russian presidential election, 1996
- United States presidential election, 2000
- United Kingdom general election, 2001 
- United Kingdom general election, 2005 
- Mexican general election 2006 controversies
- Tower Hamlets mayoral election, 2015 
- Administrative resource
- American Center for Voting Rights
- Branch stacking
- Caging list
- Electoral integrity
- Florida Central Voter File (purging controversy)
- List of controversial elections
- List of UK Parliamentary election petitions
- Political corruption
- Postal voting
- Show election
- Smear campaign
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