Federal prosecutors on Tuesday lodged mail-fraud charges against a postal worker they say altered absentee ballot requests in last month’s primary election.
Thomas Cooper, 47, admitted to changing information on the requests for ballots — including five where he switched the party primary from Democrat to Republican, according to investigators. He told them it was a joke.
The charges were announced the same day that President Trump renewed his attack on mail-in voting, saying it was “asking for fraud.”
West Virginia officials sniffed out the fraud after a clerk saw the ballot requests come in and knew that some of the people weren’t Republicans, even though their forms had been changed to say that’s the ballot they were asking for.
One of the voters said he and three others in his family all underlined the word “Democrat” for the ballot they were requesting. But the forms received had the word “Republican” circled, in such a way that it also obscured the line signifying the choice of Democrat ballots.
The voter fingered their mail carrier as the likely culprit.
Mr. Cooper, interviewed by state investigators, admitted to changing the family’s ballots, and said he “would take the blame” for the others too.
He said he did it “as a joke,” admitting he didn’t even know the others, according to an affidavit filed with the charges.
“Had Cooper’s conduct not been detected, it would have caused the clerk to give Republican ballots to 5 Democrat voters — skewing the primary election by 5 votes and thereby defrauding all West Virginian’s[sic] of a fair election,” wrote Bennie D. Cogar, an investigator with the West Virginia attorney general’s office.
Mr. Cooper is charged with attempting to defraud state voters of a fair election.
Mr. Trump, battling against the push to expand mail-in voting during coronavirus, said it opens up new opportunities for fraud.
Election experts say proven instances of voting fraud are rare, but chances are higher for main-in voting than for in-person voting.