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Murky Water

Mail-in ballots an invitation to voter fraud

West Virginians are among those in several states who are having to take a plunge into troubled waters — widespread voting by means of mail-in ballots. We have had enough experience with election fraud in the Mountain State to understand the potential for it with mail-in ballots.

Eighteen states, including ours, have postponed primary elections due to the COVID-19 outbreak. West Virginia’s was rescheduled for June 9.

Even then, there will be widespread concern about matters such as social distancing, which would be difficult to enforce at a polling place. Hence, like many other states, ours is encouraging use of mail-in absentee ballots.

Most people should have received applications for them in the mail, by now. If you have not, you can contact your county clerk or, in Ohio County, the elections clerk. Applications can be found online at Secretary of State Mac Warner’s website: sos.wv.gov.

Use of mail-in ballots to cope with the COVID-19 situation is understandable. But the situation is an open invitation to election fraud.

Within the lifetimes of some West Virginians, election fraud was a way of life in some counties. Its history includes situations in which crooked politicians and their minions traded money or bottles of whiskey for votes. Sometimes, voters willing to make that trade were handed filled-in sample ballots and instructed to go into their polling places and cast identical ballots.

How much more foolproof that would be when a vote-buyer could watch over a voter’s shoulder to ensure a mail-in absentee ballot is being filled out as instructed.

Warner is well aware of the danger. He remarked recently that “our concern over vote by mail is concern over election fraud.”

Fortunately, federal and state authorities are cooperating against election-related crime. A state Election Fraud Task Force has been formed. It includes the two U.S. Attorney offices in our state, the FBI and investigators from Warner’s office.

They should monitor primary election balloting closely. At the first indication of improprieties, decisive action should be taken against the perpetrators. A few arrests and prosecutions would send a strong, desirable message to crooked politicians. Sadly, there still are plenty of them in West Virginia.

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