Simple tests for the extent of vote fraud with absentee and provisional ballots in the 2020 US presidential election

Crime Prevention Center Working paper

39 Pages Posted: 12 May 2022 Last revised: 23 Oct 2022

See all articles by John R. Lott

John R. Lott

Crime Prevention Research Center

Date Written: December 21, 2020


This study reports three tests measuring vote fraud in the 2020 US presidential election, although they provide inconsistent evidence. To isolate the impact of a county’s vote-counting process and potential fraud on candidates’ vote margins, I first compare voting precincts in a county with alleged fraud to adjacent precincts in neighboring counties with no allegations of fraud. I compute the differences in President Trump’s vote shares on absentee ballots in those adjacent precincts, controlling for the differences in his vote shares on ballots cast in person. I also control for registered voters’ demographics and compare data for the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections. When I examine Georgia and Pennsylvania separately, weak evidence of vote fraud on absentee ballots is found. I then apply the same method to provisional ballots in Allegheny County, where, contrary to state law, voters were allowed to correct alleged defects in absentee ballots by submitting provisional ballots on Election Day. My analysis finds that such permission contributed to a statistically significant additional 5,320 to 7,200 votes for Biden. Finally, vote fraud can show up as artificially larger voter turnouts, higher rates of filling out absentee ballots for people who hadn’t voted, dead people voting, ineligible people voting, or payments for votes. The estimates for Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin combined indicate between 146,000 and 334,000 excess votes for Biden.

Keywords: Vote Fraud, absentee ballots, voter turnout rate, provisional ballots, presidential election

JEL Classification: K14

Suggested Citation

Lott, John R., Simple tests for the extent of vote fraud with absentee and provisional ballots in the 2020 US presidential election (December 21, 2020). Crime Prevention Center Working paper, Available at SSRN: or

John R. Lott (Contact Author)

Crime Prevention Research Center ( email )

PO Box 2293
1100 W Kent Ave
Missoula, MT 59801
United States

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