Donald Trump recently made the recommendation for people to vote twice in the election: once through mail-in voting and once through in-person voting at a polling station: https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/2020-election/trump-encourages-north-carolina-residents-vote-twice-test-mail-system-n1239140

The article states it is illegal to vote more than once in an election. However, I thought I read somewhere that if you did what Trump proposed, they'd just have your in-person vote override your mail-in vote, as in they'd ignore your mail-in vote during the counting.

Is voting as described above by Trump illegal?

  • Election law varies between states, and the claim in question seems to be specific to North Carolina, so I'm adding that tag. Sep 3, 2020 at 13:47
  • North Carolina's election laws can be found here. I haven't yet found a provision making this specifically illegal, but I did find 163-233.1, stating that absentee ballots, once mailed, cannot be withdrawn. Being able to have an in-person vote "override" the absentee ballot would effectively do just that, so it seems clear to me that it wasn't the legislature's intent to permit that. Sep 3, 2020 at 13:56
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    It certainly is illegal to vote more than once, 163-275(7). So this may just come from the fact that the absentee and in-person ballots are each a "vote", in the common meaning of the work, and that no special exception has been made to allow this case. Now it's quite possible that if you did this, that they would in fact most likely detect that both votes were yours, and invalidate one of them (or maybe both). But even if this scheme wouldn't be succcessful in letting you have two votes counted, that doesn't mean it can't still be illegal. Sep 3, 2020 at 14:06

1 Answer 1


The criminal provision pertaining to double voting is GS 163-275(7) says

For any person with intent to commit a fraud to register or vote at more than one precinct or more than one time, or to induce another to do so, in the same primary or election, or to vote illegally at any primary or election.

So if the person does so with the intent to commit a fraud, it is a crime. There is no other criminal provision that makes it a strict liability crime, or "to knowingly vote twice". The underlying theory (supported by parts of NC voting law) is that the government will catch and filter-out people who both vote absentee and in person. Perhaps an NC prosecutor could weigh in with a theory of how you could establish the intent element of the crime in this case.

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    Showing that the conduct was done knowing that it would make possible more than one vote from a voter, rather than accidentally, would go a long way towards showing intent to commit fraud. In these days of bagging social media posts and interviews with various reporters, it isn't at all hard to imagine some cases where proving intent to commit fraud would be easy. Arguably, the President's speech on this issue makes him someone inducing another to do so with intent to commit fraud on its face, subjecting him to a state law criminal felony prosecution for which he would probably not be immune.
    – ohwilleke
    Sep 3, 2020 at 20:36
  • If you know that the system prevents such double voting, that would counter the prosecution's argument. With the aid of social media, you can make a good showing that such a belief is reasonable.
    – user6726
    Sep 3, 2020 at 20:59
  • Not an open and shut case but arguable. But a social media post could also brag "I tried to vote twice and I don't think the checks and balances to prevent double voting work in North Carolina. I hope they are both counted." and it would be very hard to overcome that. Pre-Internet, that kind of thing was very uncommon. Now, it happens all the time.
    – ohwilleke
    Sep 3, 2020 at 21:09
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    Constitutional law scholar Lawrence Tribe tweets: "I was just testing whether this state can detect voter fraud when I showed up to vote a second time" - is just about as good a defense as: "I broke into the bank just to test whether it has a good alarm system." @tribelaw 1:33 AM 9/3/20
    – ohwilleke
    Sep 3, 2020 at 21:23

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