Absentee voting fraud charged
by Ron Gregory
Elkins — Say it ain’t so, Mac.
After weeks of public officials pushing absentee mail-in voting because of the coronavirus, concerns of voting fraud were proven accurate today.
A mail carrier in Pendleton County has been charged in connection with the alleged manipulation of absentee voter requests, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, U.S. Attorney Bill Powell and Secretary of State Mac Warner said in a press release from Morrisey.
Morrisey’s said that Thomas Cooper, 47, of Dry Fork, has been charged with attempting to defraud the residents of West Virginia of a fair election.
An affidavit accompanying the criminal complaint says Cooper fraudulently altered eight absentee ballot requests in Pendleton County. He is alleged to have fraudulently changed the party affiliation on five of them from Democrat to Republican.
“Manipulating one’s absentee ballot or application is not a laughing matter – it’s a federal offense,” 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.”
According to the affidavit, Cooper delivers mail to three towns from which altered requests were mailed: Riverton, Franklin and Onego.
Cooper admitted to altering some of the requests, according to the affidavit.
The alterations were caught by an elections official at the Pendleton County Courthouse, according to the press release. The official reported it to the state’s Election Fraud Task Force.
Warner commended the alertness and quick action by Pendleton County election officials when the matter was discovered.
“We want everyone to be tuned into the increased opportunities for fraud,” said Warner. “Voting absentee makes it easy to vote, but increases opportunities for irregularities and fraud to occur. If you see something, say something.”
State officials and county clerks changed the absentee ballot procedure to make it easier for voters to cast absentee ballots in light of the pandemic.
Whereas in the past voters had to specify a valid reason and individually request an absentee ballot, applications were mailed this time to every registered voter.
Critics have warned that absentee voting is susceptible to tampering.