(Cross posted from earlyvoting.net).
There have been accusations of absentee vote fraud in Lincoln County, WV, when 75% of absentee ballots that were requested were returned, and 90% of those favored one group of candidates.
The response of county officials is not encouraging:
“Our office encouraged every voter to participate in the democratic process, whether it be early voting at the courthouse, at local voting precincts or absentee voting,” Scraggs read from the statement. “An increase in any of the options is an encouraging sign that the democratic process is alive and well.
“Therefore, who would think that having more people vote is a bad thing?” Scraggs read.
This is a wonderful example of how election forensics can detect likely election fraud. While the technology is complicated (see Walter Mebane’s papers and Alvarez, Hall, and Hyde’s book), the intuition behind the statistics is simple.
In short, 75% absentee ballot return is not “high” or “low” unless you compare it to some standard. The problem is that it’s impossible to discover absentee ballot return rates from the state’s website (here). Since overall turnout was juist 42.99% in 2008, however, that 75% return rate does seem high (keep in mind that absentee voters have actively requested a ballot, already indicating their preference for voting).
As to the totals for one faction vs. the other, the county elections website shows no vote totals at all for 2008 (here)! This makes judging the 2010 results a bit sketchy.