W. Virginia mail carrier admits to attempted election fraud, changing political affiliation on mail-in ballots

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A mail carrier in West Virginia has pleaded guilty to election fraud after admitting he altered requests for absentee voter ballots.

The 47-year-old postal carrier, Thomas Cooper, is facing prison after being charged in May for reportedly changing the political affiliation on several mail-in ballots. He pleaded guilty Thursday to one count of “Attempt to Defraud the Residents of West Virginia of a Fair Election” and one count of “Injury to the Mail,” according to the Department of Justice.

(Image: WGN News)

Five ballot requests had been changed from “Democrat” to “Republican” and three others had been altered in some form, with the word “Republican” circled in black ink, according to the findings of an investigation by the West Virginia Secretary of State’s office which was informed of the potential fraud by the Clerk of Pendleton County back in April.

Cooper, who had a contract with the U.S. Postal Service to pick up mail in the three towns where the voters live, said he tampered with the requests “as a joke,” according to the affidavit filed in May, adding that he didn’t even know the voters whose requests he altered with a black pen.

Bennie Cogar, an investigator in the attorney general’s office who conducted the probe, noted in the affidavit that the ballot requests were flagged when the Pendleton County clerk reviewing the forms recognized the voters were not actually Republicans. The clerk confirmed with the voters and followed up with an alert to the secretary of state’s office.

In his interview with Cogar and a postal inspector, Cooper responded “I’m not saying no,” when asked about altering other mail-in ballot requests that he had picked up, according to the affidavit.

“I would take the blame,” he said when asked about requests that were picked up on his postal route.

“He is deeply sorry for the implications for our democratic process,” Cooper’s attorney, Scott Curnutte, told BuzzFeed News. “It should be remembered, however, that the mail he altered were requests for ballots, not ballots themselves.”

The case comes amid ongoing warnings about mail-in voter fraud, and as Democrats and Republicans have sparred over the use of absentee voting this year as many state and local leaders have pushed the plan citing fears over the coronavirus pandemic.

In an eyebrow-raising example in Georgia, a voter registration application was sent to a cat named Cody – who also happened to have died over a decade ago.

A sitting councilman and a councilman-elect in New Jersey were among a group of men charged with multiple counts of voter fraud last month. Charges of tampering with the mail, as well as falsifying and stealing ballots, were filed in the case related to the May 12 election in Paterson.

An internal watchdog of the U.S. Postal Service found that hundreds of absentee ballots in Wisconsin went uncounted because of postmark issues or never even made it to voters for the state’s primary election held in April. The sheer number of mail-in ballot requests and mail-in votes overwhelmed Philadelphia in its June 2 primary, and took nearly two weeks to process.

About 4,000 mail-in ballot requests were discovered on July 1 at a New Orleans post office ahead of this past Saturday’s election, and was blamed on “short-paid postage,” according to WDSU.

President Trump has continued to rail against the potential for election fraud even as Democrats push to eliminate in-person voting, citing concerns over the coronavirus pandemic – though they had no issues with thousands of protesters marching in major cities for days.

Democrats have consistently attacked the president for distinguishing between mail-in voting and absentee voting, claiming they are the same thing even though absentee ballots require a different set of requirements.



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