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Keeping the election honest in West Virginia

Our history makes West Virginians worry about election fraud. Reports of emergency shipments of pints of whiskey used to buy votes have been seen too many times for us to be apathetic about the issue.

Perhaps that is why a widely circulated report of election-related misbehavior originated in our state. Unfortunately, it has been distorted to the extent that the most salient point about it is being missed by some.

During the televised debate between President Donald Trump and former vice president Joe Biden, the matter came up during a discussion of fraud involving mailed-in ballots. “Take a look at West Virginia, a mailman selling the ballots,” the president said. “They’re being sold. They’re being dumped in rivers.”

Not in West Virginia — at least, that we are aware of now.

A mail carrier in rural Pendleton County was arrested and pleaded guilty to a crime involving the election — but no ballots were sold. None was dumped in a river.

What happened was this: The carrier took eight postcards used for voters to request mail-in ballots, and changed the party affiliation on them from Democrat to Republican. No actual ballots were involved. The carrier pleaded guilty to criminal charges earlier this year.

It is important to note that the crime was detected after Pendleton County officials became suspicious about some of the mail-in ballot requests they had received, and sought an investigation.

It may sound trite, but the system worked to prevent election-related fraud.

There may be good reason to worry about it in some states. Here in West Virginia, however, there are multiple safeguards against misuse of the mail-in ballot system.

There is no reason to expect widespread improprieties involving mail-in ballots in West Virginia. The bottom line is that voters worried about going to the polls on Election Day can have confidence in that, should they choose to use mail-in ballots.

Fraud is not impossible, of course. Keeping it out of our election process will require continued vigilance by both local and state officials — and by West Virginia voters.

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