It goes without saying that if voter fraud could be proven in the recent election, chaos would result until the legal process (which in some cases is awfully vague) could sort it all out. In fact one expert said a finding of vote tampering in the immediate would result in fighting between rival groups in the streets, and low productivity as American workers had their attention diverted. A likely stock market plunge because of a lack of confidence in the system would also probably occur.

But what would the lawful way to proceed be in such a case?

Joshua Douglas, is an associate professor of law at the University of Kentucky and the author of a treatise on the subject, a comprehensive state-by-state review of election contesting procedures. He said with election fraud in states like Ohio and Florida, the Secretary of State would decide. That office would have the task of whether to certify the election results in the state if there was likely evidence of vote tampering where invalid votes exceeded the margin of victory.

Douglas described the chance as remote. “I think the likelihood of this happening is extremely small,” he said in an interview conducted by the website

“We’re talking in the world of hypotheticals here.”

The sum of the fraud has to be greater than the margin of victory

Put simply, if the Secretary of State of a contested state saw that the margin of victory was greater than the number of fraudulent votes he/she would go ahead and certify the results because the fraudulent votes wouldn’t be great enough to change the outcome.

In Florida an Elections Canvassing Commission certifies the results. In that case if the fraudulent vote count exceeded the margin of victory the state could decline to send (state electoral) votes to Congress which counts the votes and declares the winner of the presidency.

In Ohio there is no mechanism to challenge an election through a state court or body, though in Florida you can, by filing a lawsuit.

In a contested Miami mayoral election in 1997, a finding was made that fraudulent activity had taken place in absentee ballots but not regular ballots. So the absentee ballots were simply discarded. However Douglas said the higher the office the less likely this scenario becomes. A judge in such a case would be unwilling to throw out ballots unless he could separate out the bad ones.

A further possibility is that a losing candidate could file a lawsuit in a federal court under the equal protection clause for example, that exists in Ohio and the court could decide to certify one side or the other, abandon ballots -- or order a new election. A new election has never happened before. Douglas said a court would be very unlikely to order one.

A state could just pass a law to say you win!

Another possibility is a state passing a law (after the election) simply awarding the state’s electoral votes to one candidate or the other. This would have the impact of negating the votes of voters on election day. Thus, state legislatures have the constitutional authority if inclined to remove your right to vote.

The U.S. Supreme Court might decide

Ultimately, if voter fraud could not be proven 100 percent but the loser kept challenging, the case could go through a state’s Supreme Court on up to the U.S. Supreme Court for a decision. The high court could decide to take on the case or decline, in which case it would return back down to the state court for judgement.

In the event of a Supreme Court tie vote in the matter, the case would also return to the state for decision by the lower court.

Congress could choose not to count electoral votes sent from a state based on a federal law called the Electoral Count Act. This would be if a finding is made that votes were flawed. Experts agree this possibility is also extremely unlikely.