A West Virginia postman admitted altering absentee-ballot requests and is facing prison time, federal officials announced Thursday.
Thomas Cooper, 47, of Dry Fork pleaded guilty to one count each of election fraud and mail tampering, according to a Justice Department statement.
According to the criminal complaint, eight requests had been altered and five of them had the party affiliations changed from Democratic to Republican, something that, authorities said, tipped off a clerk who knew some of the voters.
“Cooper admitted today to altering some of the requests,” Justice said in Thursday’s statement.
The maximum sentence for the offense is eight years imprisonment, but the plea deal calls for less than that.
Defense attorney Scott Curnutte told BuzzFeed News that Cooper had engaged in a “silly lark.”
“He is deeply sorry for the implications for our democratic process,” he said. “It should be remembered, however, that the mail he altered were requests for ballots, not ballots themselves.”
According to the criminal complaint filed in May, Cooper said he did it “as a joke” on one family and that he didn’t even know the others.