ELKINS, W.Va. (WDVM) — A mail carrier was charged with attempting to defraud the residents of West Virginia of a fair election. West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey announced the criminal charge Tuesday after an investigation into “alleged manipulation of absentee voter requests.”
A press release from the Office of the Attorney General identifies the mail carrier as 47-year-old Thomas Cooper of Dry Fork, West Virginia. An affidavit claims he “fraudulently altered eight absentee ballot requests in Pendleton County,” by changing the party affiliation from Democrat to Republican. Cooper had access to the ballot requests because of his job as a rural mail carrier — he delivered mail in the three towns that the tampered requests came from: Onego, Riverton and Franklin. The affidavit states Cooper admitted to tampering with some of the requests.
An elections official in the Pendleton County Courthouse caught the tampered ballots and told the state’s Election Fraud Task Force, the press release said. “Manipulating one’s absentee ballot or application is not a laughing matter – it’s a federal offense,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “We must protect the integrity of the ballot box, and this demonstrates the aggressive action we will take to do so. It is more important now than ever for voters to watch for unexplained or suspicious marks and/or any other irregularity with their ballot. If something looks suspicious, let us know right away.”
An earlier press release sent May 22 said the fraud was uncovered early by investigators and will have no impact on the election’s outcome. The video above is from WDVM’s initial coverage of the investigation.