The Unites States Attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia had confirmed his office will be examining allegations of possible election fraud involving absentee ballots in Lincoln County. As of Friday it had not been confirmed whether the W.Va. Secretary of State is involved in the investigation.
The investigation centers on a number of aspects of the use of absentee ballots being cast in Lincoln County and was brought to light by Sen. Ron Stollings (D-Boone Co.).
“I’m not doing this strictly for myself,” said Sen. Stollings. “I believe this is something I have to do for the residents of the 19th [Delegate] and 7th [Senatorial] Districts.”
According to the Lincoln County Clerk’s office, over 850 absentee ballots have been cast in the 2010 primary election – an extraordinarily large number for a mid-term election, considering that the county averages less than 200 absentees in other election years. In the 2010 primary, to date, Logan County has had 125 absentee ballot requests, while Kanawha County has only received 218 and Cabell has sent out 170 absentees.
The problem is not only with the inexplicably large number of absentees.
“I’ve also received information indicating that elderly people have been presented with absentee ballots that have already been filled out and all they were asked for were signatures,” Stollings told The Logan Banner during an interview Friday.
Another candidate said he had been approached by employees of certain Lincoln County businesses who said they were presented ballots in the same manner.
Sen. Stollings has also provided federal prosecutors with tape recorded statements from voters detailing some of the alleged activities.
Calls to the Lincoln County Clerk’s office were not returned Friday.
State law requires someone wishing to vote by absentee to present a formal request to the County Clerk’s office before receiving a ballot. A voter may also chose to take advantage of the “no excuse” early voting period in place in every county in the state.
“You would expect the number of absentees to drop since you have this ‘no excuse’ early voting system in place,” said one candidate who could be affected by the flood of absentees, but didn’t wish to be identified in this report.
In fact, 850 absentees could sway the election in any Lincoln County race or the contests for the West Virginia Legislature’s 19th House of Delegates District and the 7th Senatorial District.
In the 2008 Primary, the two highest vote-getters in Lincoln County for election to the 19th Delegate District, received 2,488 votes and 1,575 votes. A concerted effort using 850 absentee ballots would account for 34 percent and 54 percent of those votes respectively.
All of Logan County and portions of Boone, Putnam, Wayne and Lincoln counties make up the 19th Delegate District, representing approximately 74,000 people.
A portion of Wayne County plus all of Lincoln, Boone and Logan counties encompass the 7th Senatorial District which has a population of approximately 100,000 constituents.
U.S. Attorney Charles T. Miller questions the number of Lincoln County absentees, given the electoral history of the area. “We take seriously any irregularities in elections … Are that many people really out of town and unable to get in to vote?” Miller asked rhetorically. “It’s always troubling when you see something that stands out … in that particular county.”
Organized vote fraud has a long history in Logan, Lincoln and surrounding counties. As a result of the 2004 vote fraud investigations in the area, then-Lincoln County Circuit Clerk Greg Stowers was convicted by guilty plea of conspiring to fix elections.
Stowers had been indicted on charges that he had committed election fraud dating back into the early 1990s. Stowers is scheduled to provide testimony against former Logan County Clerk and House of Delegate Member Joe C. Ferrell (D-Logan) who is under a 51-count federal indictment for alleged crimes including vote-buying, bribery of public officials, racketeering, interstate travel and transportation in aid of racketeering, willful failure to account for, collect and pay over employment taxes, failure to register gambling devices, aiding and abetting social security fraud, obstruction of justice, mail fraud, bribery in connection with an agency receiving federal funds and operating an illegal gambling business.
Anyone who wishes to report election fraud activity may do so by contacting the U.S. Attorney’s Office at (304) 345-2200, the Federal Bureau of Investigation at (304) 528-4747 or the W.Va. Secretary of State at (877) 372-8398.