Many protesters and international observers alike cried fraud after Russia's recent pair of elections — this year's presidential vote that put Vladimir Putin back in the country's highest office and a 2011 parliamentary election that saw his party, United Russia, hold on to a majority. Critics alleged ballot stuffing and corrupt reporting of the results and now a statistical analysis may be able to back up claims that the elections were unfair.

A Sept. 24 report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that ballot stuffing often leaves a statistical paper trail. Specifically, an unusually high turnout coupled with an unusually high percentage of votes cast for the winning candidate is a telltale marker of an irregular or fraudulent election. This trend is exactly what the researchers observed is Russia's recent votes.

The researchers stacked figures from the Russian elections against statistics from other countries, including France, Finland, Poland and Switzerland. The percentage of votes for winning candidates in most countries tended to level off at a certain turnout rate, but the number of votes for Putin and his party actually increased as turnout approached 100 percent, the analysis shows.

Such results suggest that in some parts of the country election officials reported close to 100 percent turnout with almost all votes for a single party or candidate. Elsewhere, ballots boxes may have been stuffed with votes for the winning party, while votes for the other parties may have been taken away.

These trends signal an election that "does not represent the will of the people," concluded the researchers, led by Peter Klimek of the Medical University of Vienna. Similarly skewed patterns were also observed in recent Uganda elections, the study found.

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