To boost mail-in voting amid the pandemic for the June 9 primary in West Virginia, absentee ballot applications were sent to all registered voters. At least eight of those ballot requests ended up with unwelcome changes, all at the hands of a mail carrier who now says he was just goofing around. USA Today reports that 47-year-old Thomas Cooper, who contracted with the US Postal Service to deliver mail in three towns in Pendleton County, pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of attempted election fraud and injury to the mail after he was accused of changing the party affiliation from Democrat to Republican on five ballot applications, as well as making unspecified alterations to three other requests. Per a May 26 criminal complaint cited by BuzzFeed, the county clerk became suspicious when she spotted the fudged ballot applications, knowing some of the voters weren't Republicans.
The clerk called those voters, who confirmed they were still Democrats and that they'd used blue pens to fill out the applications; the alterations on their ballots had been made in black ink. When confronted by investigators in late April, Cooper admitted to changing the ballots and said he didn't know any of the affected voters. "[I did it] as a joke," he said, per the complaint. The New York Times notes that in the case of the five Democratic voters whose political affiliations were changed, they would've received ballots with Republican primary candidates. Cooper's attorney tells BuzzFeed the whole thing was a "silly lark" and that his client is "deeply sorry," adding, "It should be remembered ... the mail he altered were requests for ballots, not ballots themselves." Cooper could see up to eight years in prison, though prosecutors have said they'll ask for a reduced sentence as part of his plea deal. (Read more election fraud stories.)