A West Virginia letter carrier pleaded guilty to election fraud after admitting he changed the political affiliations from Democrat to Republican of people who had requested absentee ballots for the state’s primary, according to a report.
Thomas Cooper, 47, of Dry Fork pleaded guilty Thursday to one count of attempted election fraud and one count of injury to the mail, BuzzFeed News reported.
He faces up to eight years in prison, although prosecutors have agreed as part of the plea deal to call for a lesser sentence.
The clerk of Pendleton County, where Cooper worked across three towns, discovered that eight primary election mail-in absentee requests appeared to have been altered using a black pen, according to the news outlet.
Five requests had been changed so the voters’ ballot choice was switched from Democrat to Republican, but the clerk knew some of the voters were not Republicans.
When she called them they said they had used blue pens to request Democratic ballots. For the other three, the affiliation wasn’t changed, but the requests had been altered, according to BuzzFeed.
“[I did it] as a joke,” Cooper told investigators about the postal “prank,” according to the complaint. “[I] don’t even know them.”
His attorney Scott Curnutte said his client had engaged in a “silly lark.”
“He is deeply sorry for the implications for our democratic process,” Curnutte told BuzzFeed. “It should be remembered, however, that the mail he altered were requests for ballots, not ballots themselves.”
Some 2,236 votes were cast in Pendleton County for the June primary election, including 943 GOP ballots and 1,209 Democratic ones, according to data from the secretary of state.