WEST VIRGINIA (Newsmax) – A West Virginia mail carrier pleaded guilty to attempted election fraud and injury to the mail, BuzzFeed News reports.
Thomas Cooper, 47, faces jail time after he admitted he changed the party affiliation of voters who requested absentee ballots for the state’s primary election in June.
Cooper altered the voters’ ballot choice from Democrat to Republican, according to officials.
In a May 26 criminal complaint, officials explain how the Clerk of Pendleton County found eight absentee ballot requests that appeared to have been changed using a black pen.
Five of the COVID-19 mail-in ballot requests showed the party was changed from Democrat to Republican. The clerk said she knew some of the voters were not Republican, so she called to find out more information. The voters informed her they used blue pens to request their ballots before dropping them off at the post office, according to the complaint.
The other three ballots were altered, but the party wasn’t switched, according to officials.
Cooper told investigators in April he tampered with some of the ballots “as a joke.”
His attorney Scott Curnutte told BuzzFeed News his client had engaged in a “silly lark.”
“He is deeply sorry for the implications for our democratic process,” Curnutte said. “It should be remembered, however, that the mail he altered were requests for ballots, not ballots themselves.”
Cooper faces up to eight years in prison, but prosecutors have agreed to a reduced sentence as part of the plea deal, according to BuzzFeed News.
Election fraud has been a hot topic ahead of the presidential election. Many localities are encouraging people to vote by mail because of the coronavirus pandemic. But some officials, including President Donald Trump, are opposed to mail-in ballots because they claim it can lead to widespread election fraud.