Absentee ballots heighten fraud potential
by Ron Gregory
Charleston — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, in conjunction with Secretary of State Mac Warner, has issued an alert to West Virginia voters concerning the increased potential of election fraud due to broad access to absentee ballots for the June 9 primary election.
The leaders’ concerns largely relate to the ability of fraudsters to steal or manipulate absentee ballots now that more people will use a mail-in, absentee ballot due to social distancing concerns driven by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Fraud can occur in many ways during voting, especially when it comes to absentee ballots,” Morrisey said. “Our offices want voters to have the ability to recognize these red flags so they can be on the lookout for fraud and help preserve the integrity of our 2020 primary election.”
Warner added, The Secretary of State’s Office is pleased with our partnership with the Attorney General and his team in an effort to deter election fraud. We want citizens to understand just what constitutes voter fraud especially as it relates to the use of absentee ballots.”
According to Warner, each voter should generally receive a ballot within a week to 10 days of submitting his or her absentee application. Otherwise, voters should contact their county clerk as such a delay may indicate someone might have stolen the ballot from the voter’s mailbox.
Fraudsters also may submit an absentee ballot application in the name of a recently deceased person and then steal the ballot from the mailbox upon delivery.
Other criminals may target senior voters, especially at nursing homes, senior living facilities or apartment complexes. The fraudster may go door to door, find a way to bring up the senior’s absentee ballot and then say whatever the fraudster thinks it will take to convince the senior voter to vote how the fraudster wants.
Individuals wanting to manipulate a voter during the completion of an absentee ballot may offer to “assist” senior and/or handicapped voters by physically marking the ballot for them, while casting votes for the fraudster’s choice over that of the voter.
The Attorney General and Secretary of State recommended that no one should accept assistance in marking their ballot unless they know and completely trust the person offering the assistance. Even then, the helper should mark the ballot in front of the voter and sign the affidavit on the absentee ballot envelope.
Anyone planning to vote absentee should request his or her absentee ballot as soon as possible. Information on West Virginia’s absentee ballot process can be found online at www.GoVoteWV.com.
Anyone who suspects potential voter fraud should contact the Secretary of State’s Election Fraud Hotline toll free at 1-877-FRAUD-WV.
Those with reports of price gouging, scams and consumer fraud during the COVID-19 pandemic should immediately contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at 1-800-368-8808, the Eastern Panhandle Consumer Protection Office in Martinsburg at 304-267-0239 or visit the office online at www.wvago.gov.