President Biden received hundreds of thousands of “excess” votes in Democratic-controlled areas in the 2020 election, according to an academic study on voter fraud that suggests the push to relax voting standards created new opportunities for electoral mischief.
John R. Lott Jr., the man behind the research, teased out those numbers by comparing Democratic-dominant areas to Republican-dominant places over the past two presidential elections, particularly in places where claims of election fraud were reported in 2020.
Looking at six swing states, the data he crunched found that voter turnout in Republican areas increased from 2016 to 2020 while voter turnout among Democrats dropped — except in places where voter fraud was claimed.
That accounted for 255,000 “excess” votes for Mr. Biden above what would be expected, Mr. Lott said. His paper has been accepted for publication in Public Choice, a peer-reviewed journal specializing in the intersection of economics and political science.
“More heavily Democratic counties actually had a slightly lower turnout in 2020, except for counties where vote fraud was alleged. In those counties, you had a huge increase in turnout,” Mr. Lott told The Washington Times in an interview explaining his findings.
“In some of those swing states, you had counties where vote fraud was alleged. In some of those swing states, you had counties where vote fraud wasn’t alleged. And yet you only had huge increases in turnout where vote fraud was alleged,” he said.
Taking another tack, Mr. Lott looked at specific voting precincts that touched each other but where one was inside a Republican-dominant county and the other inside a Democratic-leaning county where there were fraud accusations.
He found that in-person voting for the neighboring precincts was about the same, but absentee or mailed balloting tilted toward Democrats in the Democratic precincts.
Mr. Lott said there is no clear reason why absentee turnout alone should increase in just the Democratic jurisdiction, which suggests shenanigans were afoot.
“You’re comparing two tiny areas that are very homogenous, very similar to each other, across the street from each other, and the thing that differs from these two, for the absentee ballots, is where the ballots were counted,” the researcher said.
Mr. Lott runs the Crime Prevention Research Center and has been a major figure in gun and crime debates over the years. He served in the Justice Department’s office of legal policy at the end of the Trump administration, where he first conducted his election research.
His findings raise questions about the outcome of the 2020 election and about the path forward.
President Trump’s defenders filed dozens of cases alleging voter fraud in 2020, but they were generally dismissed by judges saying there wasn’t any concrete evidence of problems or, in some cases, no proof that mishaps were large enough to overturn the official count.
Actual specific instances of voter fraud have been prosecuted in past elections, including 2020, but they are isolated incidents. Voting rights advocates say the small numbers prove fraud isn’t an issue.
Mr. Lott said his numbers work to counter that sentiment, suggesting the level of mischief is significantly larger than the few cases formally brought before courts.
“Time after time, the news media keeps on saying there’s no evidence of vote fraud there. I think it’s at least a little bit harder for them to go and claim that,” Mr. Lott said.
William F. Shughart II, editor of Public Choice and professor at Utah State University, called the peer-reviewed paper “provocative.”
“By comparing differences in election results for 2020’s presidential candidates between in-person and mail-in ballots in matched samples of precincts in selected U.S. states, It offers a novel way of detecting ‘irregularities’ in postal voting,” he said in an email.
“To my knowledge, Dr. Lott is the first scholar to examine the most recent U.S. presidential election at the voting precinct level and actually present statistical evidence supporting allegations of fraud in at least two key states (Georgia and Pennsylvania),” he said.
If the findings are confirmed by other scholars, Mr. Shughart said, they could play a role in future debates about authenticating mail-in ballots.
Mr. Lott first broached the differences between neighboring precincts in late 2020, sparking a back-and-forth with other academics.
In a 2021 op-ed in The Times, two Stanford University professors argued that Mr. Lott relied on “faulty” data.
Mr. Lott said he reworked the data to accommodate the concerns and found the excess votes persisted.
Other analysts have questioned Mr. Lott’s use of counties where fraud was claimed as a factor. They said it doesn’t make sense to use the Trump team’s self-serving claims as a basis for evaluating differences.
Mr. Lott, though, said the data about precincts separated by a county border is compelling.
He said even separated by a county boundary, those communities are likely to be similar, separated by nothing more than a street, and there’s no reason why voter turnout should differ in years with major state and national races that span the counties.
“When you look at the data for 2016, in fact that’s the case. The changes you observe and the gaps between the shares that Trump or Clinton do turn out to pretty much explain the differences you see in the absentee ballots. But that’s not true for 2020,” Mr. Lott said.
In Georgia, he looked for both elections at precincts in Fulton County, a Democratic stronghold, and four Republican-heavy counties that border Fulton. But something weird happened in absentee ballots for 2020, where there was an “unusual drop-off” in Mr. Trump’s share in Democratic-controlled Fulton County.
By one calculation, the unusual drop in Trump votes in Fulton amounted to 11,350, almost equal to the 12,670-vote margin by which Mr. Biden won Georgia.
Mr. Lott said regular in-person votes are cast and counted at the local precinct, while absentee ballots are counted at a central office.
That was where allegations of mischief occurred in Fulton in 2020, with a burst water pipe causing removal of poll watchers.
In Pennsylvania, Mr. Lott said, there seemed to be an issue with provisional ballots, where local officials in Democratic counties sought out voters who had cast incorrect mail ballots and gave them provisional ballots to try to correct their mistakes.
“That was against state law, and none of the Republican counties did that,” Mr. Lott said. “I find a very strong significant relationship there that indicates that probably in Allegheny and Philadelphia counties, you had probably 7,000 votes just from that.”
• Stephen Dinan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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