ST. LOUIS — After internet memes and even the president suggested people vote by mail and then go vote in person, many people wondered: is it that easy to vote twice?
Unlike your favorite TV competition show, you cannot vote as many times as you want in an election, and there are systems in place to make sure of that.
On Election Day, polling places use electronic poll books to check who has voted, ensuring once you've signed in, you cannot come back and vote again. (The poll books are kept for the duration of the election, so if you vote early in person, it will still show you've already voted if you come back another day.)
If you request to vote by mail, the poll books show that, too.
So if you go try to vote at a polling place, poll workers look you up and see that you already have that mail ballot, meaning, you should have already voted.
“There’s only one ballot per person so once that's ballot's checked in we can't receive another ballot from that voter, so there are a lot of safeguards in place with that entire process,” said Eric Fey, St. Louis County Democratic Director of Elections.
Request a ballot by mail but now you want to vote in person? Maybe you forgot to drop it in the mail, or plans just changed?
You can bring that ballot with you to a polling place, and surrender it. That one will not be counted; instead, you will get a new ballot to vote in person.
If you lost your ballot, or for some reason never got it, the election board can check the system to confirm your vote has not been counted yet, then give you an affidavit and a new ballot.
How about trying to vote in person just to be sure your mailed-vote counted?
“If you go to a polling place, it will be logged as such, you won't be able to vote again, so it's just really not a productive undertaking to try that,” said Fey, who instead recommends calling the election board or using your jurisdiction’s online vote tracker if they have one well ahead of Election Day.
Is it illegal to vote twice?
Earlier this month, President Trump encouraged voters in North Carolina to attempt to vote twice — both by mail and in-person — as a way to test the system. Voting twice is a felony in North Carolina.
Later, Trump slightly walked back those comments, tweeting that people who vote early by mail should show up at polling places and vote again if their ballots haven’t been counted.
Fey did not go so far as to say whether or not the president and these internet memes are suggesting committing fraud. Instead, Fey said he believes the systems are in place to prevent that from being an issue.
"You're just going to be holding up the lines for everybody else who needs to vote," he said.
In Missouri, it is illegal to vote twice. According to statute 115.175, "Any person who knowingly or willfully gives any false information for the purpose of establishing his eligibility to register to vote or who conspires with another p, erson for the purpose of encouraging his false registration or illegal vote, or who pays or offers to pay, accepts or offers to accept payment for registering to vote or for voting, or who otherwise willfully and fraudulently furnishes false information to a registration official for the purpose of causing a false or fictitious registration, or who registers to vote with the intention of voting more than once in the same election shall be guilty of a class one election offense."
Voting twice is also illegal in Illinois, according to statute 10 ILCS 5/29-5, which states: "Voting more than once. Any person who, having voted once, knowingly during any election where the ballot or machine lists any of the same candidates and issues listed on the ballot or machine previously used for voting by that person, (a) files an application to vote in the same or another polling place, or (b) accepts a ballot or enters a voting machine (except to legally give assistance pursuant to the provisions of this Code), shall be guilty of a Class 3 felony; however, if a person has delivered a ballot or ballots to an election authority as a vote by mail voter and due to a change of circumstances is able to and does vote in the precinct of his residence on election day, shall not be deemed to be in violation of this Code."