A mailman who altered eight absentee ballot requests in West Virginia during last year’s elections was sentenced Monday to six months’ house arrest.
Thomas Cooper admitted he took a black Bic pen to the ballot applications, and in five cases actually changed their requests so that they would have received Republican instead of Democratic ballots in the state’s spring primary.
He then put the applications back into the mail stream.
They were flagged by the county clerk, who thought they were suspicious. She knew some of the voters weren’t Republicans, and was surprised by the requests, so she called them.
They confirmed they had asked for Democratic ballots, and they fingered their mailman as the likely culprit, according to court documents.
Cooper told investigators he did it “as a joke,” and said he didn’t even know the targets.
His total sentence is five years’ probation, with the first six months in home confinement.
Cooper’s arrest last May made waves as the country was beginning a debate over the coronavirus pandemic, a rush by states to embrace mail-in voting, and pitfalls of trusting the postal service.
A series of cases involving postal employees emerged, and some elections advocates raised concerns the U.S. Postal Service couldn’t handle the volume of business.
An inspector general’s review found the postal service handled 134 million pieces of election mail and nearly 94% of it was delivered on time, according to the service’s 2-to-5 day standard for first class mail. That’s 11% better than the congressional elections of 2018.
The Senate is slated to vote Tuesday on a bill that would expand options for mail voting nationally. The legislation is expected to fall to a GOP-led filibuster.