Selected Federal Statutes

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The Number and Apportionment of Representatives

The Number of Congressional Districts and the Number of Representatives from Each District

The Time of Conducting Federal Elections

The Voting Rights Act of 1965, as amended

The National Voter Registration Act of 1993

The Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act

The Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act

Retention of Voting Documentation

Conspiring Against the Rights of Citizens and Deprivation of Rights Under Color of Law

Denying the Right of Individuals to Vote Because of Errors or Omissions on their Voter Registration Application

False Information in, and Payments for, Registering or Voting

Voting More Than Once

The Number and Apportionment
of Representatives
(2 U.S.C. 2a & 2b)
This statute fixes the number of members in the U.S. House of Representatives at 435 (as first established in 1911) and provides for their decennial reapportionment according to the "method of equal proportions, no State to receive less than one member."
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The Number of Congressional Districts and the Number of Representatives from Each District
(2 U.S.C. 2c)

This Statute formally establishes, as of 1967, the single-member-district (or nominal") system of representation in the U.S. House of representatives requiring each State to contain as many Congressional districts as it has members in the House with one member being elected from each district. 

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   The Time of Conducting Federal Elections
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Presidential Elections
(3 U.S.C.1)

The time for appointing presidential Electors (and, hence, for conducting presidential elections by today's practice of appointing them by direct popular vote) was established in 1845 as being "on the Tuesday next after the first Monday in November, in every fourth year..." 
   
House Elections The time for electing Representatives was established in 1875 as being "The Tuesday next after the first Monday in November, in every even numbered year..."
   
Senate Elections The time for electing Senators was established in 1914 as being "At the regular election held in any State next preceding the expiration of the term for which any Senator was elected to represent such State in Congress, at which election a Representative to Congress is regularly by law to be chosen..." 
   
  The Voting Rights Act of 1965, as amended
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  The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was originally designed to protect and facilitate the voting rights of racial minority groups. Subsequent amendments have, however, expand it to include members of language minority groups as well as other more general matters regarding voting qualifications and procedures. As a result, some portions of the Voting Rights Act now apply to all elections nationwide, other portions apply nationwide but only to presidential general elections, and still other portions apply to all elections but only in certain States or political subdivisions. (In order to find out whether your jurisdiction is covered by these latter provisions, we suggest that you contact your State election authority or the Department of Justice guidelines). 

Salient features of the Voting Rights Act include the following:

   
Discriminatory Laws, Procedures, or Electoral Systems
A General Prohibition on Discriminatory Voting Laws (42 U.S.C. 1973) applies to all elections and prohibits all States and political subdivisions from imposing or applying election laws or procedures which discriminate against individuals on account of race, color, or language minority status. Section 2, as this section is generally known, also prohibits the use of discriminatory redistricting plans and of electoral systems that dilute minority voting strength. 

NOTES: (1) Those engaged in redistricting at any level will want to bear this prohibition in mind so as to avoid time-consuming and expensive litigation. (2) In addition to this general provision, which applies everywhere, there are four special anti discrimination provisions that apply only to certain jurisdictions. Because of their narrower application, these special provisions regarding pre clearance, minority languages, federal observers, and federal examiners are identified at the end of this page.

   
Literacy Tests  A Prohibition on Literacy Tests and Other Devices (42 U.S.C. 1973aa) applies to all elections in all jurisdictions and bans literacy tests and other devices as a condition for voter registration. 

 
   

Registration Deadlines

 

Absentee Ballot
Application
Deadline

 

 

Absentee Voting
for Interstate
Movers

 

 

Absentee
Registration

Residency Requirements for Voting for President and Vice President (42 U.S.C. 1973aa-1) apply only to general elections for U.S. President and Vice President and their electors in all jurisdictions. This provision: 
  • Permits otherwise qualified residents of a State to vote in presidential elections regardless of any State durational residency requirement provided such residents apply for registration no later than 30 days prior to the election (or lesser period if State law permits;
  • Permits duly qualified (i.e. registered) residents of a State who may be absent on election day to vote absentee in presidential elections provided that they have applied for an absentee ballot no later than 7 days before the election (or a lesser period if State law permits) and have returned the ballot to the appropriate election official no later than the close of polls;
  • Permits persons who move to a new State within 30 days prior to the election (and who may therefore fail to qualify for registration in their new State) to vote absentee for president and vice president in their State of former residence if they otherwise fulfill the requirements (including voter registration requirements) of their previous State's law; and
  • Prohibits States from denying a U.S. citizen who is otherwise qualified to vote by absentee ballot the right to vote simply because that State has no provision for absentee registration. (In other words, States that prohibit otherwise qualified residents from registering absentee must nevertheless permit them to vote absentee for the offices of President and Vice President).

(NOTE: Despite a popular misconception these provisions do not constitute a blanket guarantee of the right to vote for president and vice president regardless of whether or not the individual is registered. On the contrary, State voter registration requirements --except in those few States that do not provide for absentee registration-- are specifically respected.)

   
Voter Assistance Voter Assistance Provisions (42 U.S.C. 1973aa-6) apply to all elections in all jurisdictions. This portion of the law, commonly referred to as Section 208, reads in its entirety: 

"Any voter who requires assistance to vote by reason of blindness, disability, or inability to read or write may be given assistance by a person of the voter's choice, other than the voter's employer or agent of that employer or officer or agent of the voter's union."

(NOTE: This provision supersedes any incompatible State law that may restrict the number of voters a person may assist or that places restrictions, such as on children, on who may enter a polling booth with a voter requiring assistance. It does not, however, preclude obtaining a signed and sworn affidavit from any person providing a voter assistance.)

Special provisions of the Voting Rights Act include the following:

   
Bilingual Election
Services
 
 Bilingual Election Requirements (42 U.S.C. 1973aa-1a and 1973b(f)(4)) apply to all elections but only in certain covered jurisdictions requiring them to provide registration and voting materials and oral assistance in the language of a qualified language minority group as well as in English. Such language minority groups include persons of Hispanic heritage, American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Asian Americans. 

   
Section 5
Preclearance
of Changes
 

Preclearance of Changes in Voting Laws (42 U.S.C. 1973c) applies to laws and procedures affecting all elections but only in certain covered States and political subdivisions and prohibits them from using new election laws and procedures without preclearance from the U.S. Attorney General or else from the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

(NOTE: The purpose of this requirement, commonly referred to as Section 5, is to prevent the implementation of voting changes that have the purpose or effect of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race, color, or membership in a language minority group.)

   
Federal Examiners   Voter Registration by Federal Examiners (42 U.S.C. 1973a and 1973d) applies to all elections but only in certain covered States and authorizes the U.S. Office of Personnel Management to register eligible voters in political subdivisions of such States when the U.S. Attorney General certifies it as being necessary to protect the right to vote from racial discrimination. 

(NOTE: In order to ascertain whether jurisdiction is covered by any of the last four provisions listed above, or for advice concerning them, the Department of Justice offers both Section 5 and minority guidelines which may be obtained at the address below.)

Specific questions regarding any of the provisions of the Voting Rights Act or requests for copies of the Act should be addressed to:

The Voting Section
Civil Rights Division
U.S. Department of Justice
P.O. Box 66128
Washington, DC 20035-6128
TEL: (202) 307-3266
FAX: (202) 307-3961

   
Motor Voter
Registration
 
 The National Voter Registration Act of 1993
(42 U.S.C. 1973gg and 11 CFR 8)
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  This Act applies to all federal elections in all States except Idaho, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North dakota , Wisconsin and Wyoming which are exempted by 42 U.S.C. 1973gg-2 as amended. In all other States, this Act:
   
  Requires that individuals be given an opportunity to register to vote (or to update their registration data) when applying for or renewing a driver's license or other personal identification document issued by a State motor vehicle authority. Further, any change of address submitted for a motor vehicle driver's license shall also serve as a notice of change of address for voter registration purposes unless the individual states on the application that the change of address is not for voter registration purposes.
   
  Requires that individuals be given the opportunity to register to vote (or to change their voter registration address) when applying for services or assistance:
   
 
  • at any office in the State that provides public assistance including, but not limited to, the Food Stamp Program; the Medicaid Program; the Special Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program; and the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) Program;
  • at or through any office in the State that provides State funded programs primarily engaged in providing services to persons with disabilities;
  • at other offices designated by the State; and
  • at Armed Forces recruitment offices.
   
  Individuals must be provided this opportunity not only at the time of their original application for services, but also when filing a re certification, renewal, or change of address relating to such services. 

   
Agency
Registration
 
 Agencies providing voter registration services must offer the same degree of assistance to individuals in completing a voter registration form as they offer to individuals completing the agency's own forms, unless the applicant refuses such assistance. Moreover, the person who provides such services in the agency is prohibited from: 

   
 
  • seeking to influence an applicant's party preference or party registration;
  • displaying any such political preference or party allegiance;
  • making any statement or taking any action whose purpose or effect is to discourage the applicant from registering to vote; and
  • making any statement or taking any action whose purpose or effect is to lead the applicant to believe that a decision whether or not to register has any bearing on the availability of services or benefits.
   
Mail Registration   Requires that States accept a national voter registration form (prescribed by the Federal Election Commission) as a means of applying for voter registration or updating voter registration data. in addition, States are permitted to use their own State mail registration form provided that it meets the criteria laid out in 42 U.S.C. 1973gg-7 -- the same criteria as pertain to the contents of the national form. National and State forms (if any) are to be made available by the chief State election official through governmental and private entities with particular emphasis on organized voter registration programs.
   
Registration
Deadlines
 
Establishes 30 days before the election (or the State's own registration deadline if it is later) as the last day on which an applicant may submit a voter registration form. Motor vehicle and agency offices have up to 5 days to transmit to the election office any applications they receive within the last 5 days of voter registration and up to 10 days to transmit applications at their times. Election offices must also accept and process mailed voter registration applications that are postmarked not later than the voter registration deadline.
   
Notice of
Disposition
 
Requires the appropriate election official to send notice to each applicant of the disposition of the application. 
   
  Prohibits removing the names of individuals from the voter registration list merely for their failure to vote or for their having changed residence within the registrar's jurisdiction. 

Removing Names
from the Voting List
 

Permits removing the names of individuals from the voter list:

  • upon the request of the registrant;
  • upon the death of the registrant;
  • for mental incapacity of the registrant as provided by State law;
  • upon criminal conviction of the registrant as provided for in State law;
  • upon written notification by the registrant that the registrant has changed address to a location outside the registrars' jurisdiction; and
  • upon notification by a motor vehicle or agency office of a registrant's change of address for voting purposes to a location outside the registrar's jurisdiction (this information is presumed to have originated by a notice from the registrant to the relevant motor vehicle or agency office).
   
   Requires States to conduct a uniform and non-discriminatory general program (to be completed prior to 90 days before a federal election) that makes a reasonable effort to remove the names of voters: 
  • upon their death;
  • upon their written confirmation that their address has changed to a location outside the registrar's jurisdiction; or
  • upon their failure to respond to certain confirmation mailings along with their failure to offer to vote in any election within two general federal elections subsequent to the mailing. (The confirmation mailings in this case are those mailed out to registrants who, based on information from the U.S. Postal Service, have apparently changed address to a location outside the registrar's jurisdiction).
   
Fail-Safe Voting   Permits certain classes of registrants to vote regardless of the fact that: 
  • they have failed to respond to a confirmation mailing that was triggered by information indicating that they may no longer reside in the registrar's jurisdiction if they affirm that they reside in the jurisdiction.
  • they have failed to respond to a confirmation mailing triggered by information indicating that they have moved within the registrar's jurisdiction if they affirm that they still reside in the jurisdiction; or
  • they have not been sent a confirmation mailing but affirm that they:
  • have moved within the same precinct;
  • have moved from one precinct to another within the registrar's jurisdiction;
  • have not moved, even though the voter registration records incorrectly show that they have.
   
Record Keeping   Requires States to: 
  • designate a State officer or employee as chief State election official to be responsible for coordinating State implementation of the Act;
  • maintain for at least two years and to make available for public inspection all records concerning the implementation if programs and activities conducted for the purpose of ensuring the accuracy and currency of official lists of eligible voters, except to the extent that such records relate to a declination to register to vote or to the identity of a voter registration agency through which any particular person is registered. These records include:
  • lists of the names and addresses of all persons to whom confirmation mailings were sent.
  • information concerning whether or not each such person responded to the mailing as of the date that the records are inspected.
   
Reporting 
  • collect and report the items of information prescribed by the Federal Election Commission regarding the impact of the Act on the administration of elections for federal office.
   
Role of the FEC  Requires the Federal Election Commission to: 
  • develop a mail voter registration application form for federal elections;
  • submit to Congress not later than June 30 of each odd-numbered year a report assessing the impact of the Act on the administration of elections for federal office;
  • provide information to the States with respect to the responsibilities of the States under the Act; and
  • prescribe regulations necessary to developing the national mail voter registration form and to submitting the report to Congress.
   
Enforcement  The enforcement of these provisions rests with the United States Attorney General or with any person who is aggrieved by noncompliance, either of whom may bring action for declaratory or injunctive relief in the appropriate court. Private plaintiffs should take note of the notification requirements and time constraints described in 42 U.S.C 1973gg-9.
   
  Specific questions regarding provisions of the National Voter Registration Act should be addressed either to your State's chief election official or to: 

Office of Election Administration Federal Election Commission
999 E Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20463
Tel: (202) 694-1095
Toll Free: (800) 424-9530
FAX: (202) 219-8500

   
  Matters regarding the enforcement of the National Voter Registration Act may be addressed to: 

Chief, Voting Section
Civil Rights Division
U.S. Department of Justice
P.O. Box 66128
Washington, DC 20035-6128
Tel: (202) 307-2767
Fax: (202) 307-3961

   
  The Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act of 1986 (42 U.S.C. 1973ff through
1973ff-6, 39 U.S.C. 3406, and 18 U.S.C. 608-609)
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Absentee Voting
for Uniformed
Services
This law consolidates and supercedes the Federal Voting Assistance Act of 1955 and the Overseas Citizens Voting Rights Act of 1975. It applies to all general, primary and special elections for federal office in all jurisdictions and: 
   

 

 

 

Absentee Voting
for Overseas
Citizens

 

Federal Post Card
Application (FPCA)

 

Registration for
Uniformed Services
and Overseas
Citizens

 

The Federal
Write-In
Absentee Ballot
(FWAB)

  • Permits members of the Uniformed Services and Merchant Marine , and their eligible family members, to register and vote absentee in elections for federal office.
  • Permits civilian U.S. citizens residing outside the U.S., who may no longer retain a residence in the United States, to register and vote absentee in federal elections in the jurisdiction (or precinct) of their last residence in the United States.
  • Provides for the registration and application for an absentee ballot by mail using the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) form for members of the Uniformed Services and their eligible family members and for al other citizens outside the U.S.
  • Requires the acceptance of any valid voter registration application for elections for federal office from absent uniformed or overseas voters and their eligible family members if received at least 30 days before the election (or lesser period if State law permits).
  • Permits members of the Uniformed Services and their eligible family members and all their citizens residing outside the United States who are absent from the United States and its territories to cast a Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB) in the general election for federal offices* provided:
   
 
  • the voter has complied with the State's legal requirements concerning absentee voting (in such matters as registration, etc.);
  • the voter has made a timely request for a regular ballot ("timely" being defined as having been received by the local election official at least 30 days before the election);
  • the voter has not received the regular absentee ballot in time to vote and return it (this decision is left largely to the voter)*; and
  • the ballot is submitted from a location outside the United States or its territories.*
  * NOTES: (1) The FWAB can be obtained by voters from U.S. Embassies, consulates, and military installations, as well as from overseas political parties and U.S. corporations overseas that employ U.S. citizens. (2) Should the voter cast a ballot using the FWAB but then receive, vote, and return the regular absentee ballot on time, the regular ballot takes precedence over the FWAB. (3) Some States allow the FWAB to be used by voters in other than the general election and for other than federal offices. Some States do not require the voter to be overseas.
   
 
  • Recommends that the States take action to eliminate obstacles to absentee voting encountered by military and overseas citizens.
  • Recommends that, if an application other than the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) is required for absentee registration, it should be sent to the voter along with the absentee ballot, to be returned to the ballot.
  • Encourages the provision of later registration for persons recently separated from the Armed Forces.
  • Provides penalties for furnishing false information to establish eligibility to vote under this Act.
   
  For further information regarding any of the provisions of the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (or for assistance in providing election services to uniformed and overseas citizens contact:

The Federal Voting Assistance Program
1155 Defense Pentagon Washington, DC 20301-1155

Tel: (703) 588-1584
Fax: (703) 588-0108
http://www.fvap.gov

   
  The Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act of 1984 (42 U.S.C. 1973ee through 1973ee-6)
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Accessibility of
Polling Places
This Act applies to all general, primary, and special federal elections in all jurisdictions and requires:

that each political subdivision responsible for conducting elections within each State assure that polling places for federal elections are accessible to elderly and handicapped voters except in the case of an emergency as determined by the State's chief election officer or unless the States chief election officer

 
  1. determines, by surveying all potential polling places, that no such place in the area is accessible or can be made temporarily accessible, and
  2. assures that any handicapped voter assigned to an inaccessible polling place will, upon advance request under established State procedures, either be assigned to an accessible polling place or be provided an alternative means of casting a ballot on election day.
   
Accessibility of
Registration Sites
that each State and political subdivision responsible for voter registration for federal elections provide a reasonable number of accessible permanent registration facilities unless the State has in effect a system which provides potential voters an opportunity to register by mail or at their residence.
   
Voting Aids that each State make available to handicapped and elderly individuals registration and voting aids for federal elections including large-type instructions conspicuously displayed in every permanent registration facility and polling place and information by telecommunication devices (TDD's) for the deaf.
   
Notarization or
Medical Certification
the elimination of any notarization or medical certification requirement for handicapped voters to obtain (or apply for) an absentee ballot except for medical certifications required to establish eligibility, under State law, for automatically receiving such an application or ballot on a continuing basis or for applying for an absentee ballot after the normal deadline has passed.

   
  that each State's chief election officer provide (not later than when general public notice of registration and voting is provided) public notice calculated to reach elderly and handicapped voters regarding the availability
  • of registration and voting aids required above;
  • of the voter assistance provisions under section 208 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965; and
  • of the procedures for voting by absentee ballot.
   
  The enforcement of these provisions rests with the United States Attorney General or with any individual who is personally aggrieved by noncompliance, either of whom may bring an action for declaratory or injunctive relief in the appropriate court provided that the plaintiff notify the State's chief election officer of the noncompliance and a period of 45 days has elapsed since the date of notification.

Specific questions regarding any of the provisions of the Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act should be addressed to either your State's chief election officer or directly to:

Office of Election Administration Federal Election Commission
999 E Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20463
Tel: (202) 694-1095
Toll Free: (800) 424-9530
Fax: (202) 219-8500

   
  Retention of Voting Documentation
(42 U.S.C. 1974 through 1974e)
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Record Retention This statute applies in all jurisdictions and to all elections in which a federal candidate is on the ballot. It requires election officials to preserve for 22 months "all records and papers which came into their possession relating to an application, registration, payment of a poll tax, or other act requisite to voting."

   
  NOTE: The Department of Justice considers this law to cover all voter registration records, all poll lists and similar documents reflecting the identity of voters casting ballots at the polls, all applications for absentee ballots, all envelopes in which absentee ballots are returned for tabulation, all documents containing oaths of voters, all documents relating to challenges to voters or absentee ballots, all tally sheets and canvass reports, all records reflecting the appointment of persons entitled to act as poll officials or poll watchers, and all computer programs used to tabulate votes electronically. In addition, it is the Department of Justice's view that the phrase "other act requisite to voting" requires the retention of the ballots themselves, at least in those jurisdictions where a voter's electoral preference is manifested by marking a piece of paper or by punching holes in a computer card.)
   
  More details regarding coverage of this law are provided in Innovations in Election Administration 8: Election Document Retention in an Age of High Technology, available free of charge from:

Office of Election Administration Federal Election Commission
999 E Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20463
Tel: (202) 694-1095
Toll Free: (800) 424-9530
Fax: (202) 219-8500

   
  Any additional questions regarding the retention of voting documentation should be addressed to:

Director, Election Crimes Branch Department of Justice
1400New York Avenue, N.W.
12th Fl.
Washington, DC 20005
Tel: (202) 514-1421

   
  Conspiring Against the Rights of Citizens and Deprivation of Rights Under Color of Law (18 U.S.C. 241 and 242)
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Prohibited Acts This statute applies in all jurisdictions and in all elections should a public official (poll worker, registrar, election official, etc.) be involved in a criminal act. If a public official is not involved, it applies only to vote fraud directly or indirectly affecting federal candidates on the ballot. Prohibited acts include, among others:
  • intentionally preventing a qualified voter from casting a ballot;
  • ballot box stuffing;
  • forging or altering ballots;
  • impersonating qualified voters;
  • illegally registering voters;
  • casting absentee ballots in another voter's name.

Specific questions regarding this statute or its appropriate application should be addressed to:

Director, Election Crimes Branch Department of Justice
1400 New York Avenue, N.W.
12th Fl.
Washington, DC20005
Tel: (202) 514-1421

   
  Denying the Right of Individuals to Vote Because of Errors or Omissions on their Voter Registration Application (42 U.S.C. 1971(a)(2)(B))
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Incomplete
Registration
Applications
This statute applies in all jurisdictions and to all elections. It specifically prohibits any person acting under color of law from denying "the right of any individual to vote in any election because of an error or omission on any record or paper relating to any application, registration, or other act requisite to voting, if such error or omission is not material in determining whether such individual is qualified under State law to vote in such election."

Specific questions regarding this provision should be addressed to:

The Voting Section
Civil Rights Division
U.S. Department of Justice
P.O. Box 66128
Washington,DC 20035-6128
Tel: (202) 307-3266
Fax: (202) 307-3961

   
  False Information in, and Payments for, Registering or Voting (42 U.S.C. 1973i(c))
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False Information This statute applies to all jurisdictions and prohibits giving materially false information (false name, home address, and/or period of residence in voting district) to an election official for the purpose of establishing one's eligibility to register or to vote. Although the law applies only to elections in which a federal candidate is on the ballot, any registration which would qualify the applicant to cast a ballot in a federal contest would fall under this provision.
   
Vote Buying This statute also prohibits "vote buying" in the broadest terms possible by forbidding any "payment" or "offer of payment" that is made to a would-be voter "for voting" or to induce unregistered individuals to get onto the electoral roles. A "payment" encompasses anything of material value including lottery chances.

Questions regarding this law or its appropriate application should be addressed to:

Director, Election Crimes Branch Department of Justice
1400 New York Avenue, N.W.
12th Fl.
Washington, DC 20005
Tel: (202) 514-1421

   
  Voting More Than Once (42 U.S.C. 1973i(e))
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Multiple Voting This statute makes it unlawful to "vote more than once" in connection with any general, special, or primary election in which a federal candidate is on the ballot.
   
  (NOTE: According to the Department of Justice, the concept of "voting more than once" is not necessarily restricted to situations where members of a criminal enterprise actually mark more than one ballot. It may also apply in situations involving the intimidation of voters, or where it can otherwise be fairly said that a defendant purposely sought to subvert the free exercise of the electoral will of other voters, and thereby multiply the value of his own franchise beyond the one vote accorded to him under our electoral system.)
   
  Questions regarding this law or its appropriate application should also be addressed to:

Director, Election Crimes Branch Department of Justice
1400 New York Avenue, N.W., 12th Fl.
Washington, DC 20005
Tel: (202) 514-1421

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