Elkins, W. Va. – On Monday, June 21, 2021, a former USPS mail carrier Thomas Cooper of Dry Fork, WV, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Thomas Kleeh in Elkins. Cooper altered eight absentee ballot applications that had been completed by people who lived on his mail route. Cooper pled guilty to attempting to defraud the residents of West Virginia of a fair election.
WV Secretary of State Mac Warner credited the quick action of Pendleton County election officials in recognizing and reporting the incident to state officials for investigation. The investigation by the state's Anti-fraud Task Force led to Cooper's arrest and conviction.
"County Clerks, their staff and our poll workers are trained to recognize attempts to cheat during an election by manipulating absentee ballots," Secretary Warner said. "As the popularity and use of absentee ballots increases, so too will our resolve to catch and prosecute those who attempt to defraud the process and voters."
Warner said that his office works closely with the state's 55 county clerks to provide training on how to protect elections and how to recognize and stop election fraud. In 2018, Warner and the West Virginia Secretary of State's Office were featured in the national news as a leader in election security.
"Our election officials are the best trained in the nation. We're working together closely to combat election fraud. My office will continue to listen to local election officials when it comes to knowing how best to make it easy to vote and hard to cheat," Warner said. "If you cheat during an election in West Virginia, we’ve got the people in place to catch you."
Donald Kersey, General Counsel for the Secretary of State's office, said that Cooper betrayed the public’s trust by defrauding the election process, which caused voters to lose confidence and question the integrity of the 2020 Primary Election. With this conviction, other bad actors are on notice that actions that harm election integrity will be investigated and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
Judge Kleeh sentenced Cooper to 6 months confinement at home, 5 years probation on each count to be served concurrently, and a $200 penalty. So as to not burden West Virginia taxpayers for the cost of confinement, Kleeh ordered Cooper to pay for the costs associated with his home confinement such as bracelet and monitoring.
The WV Secretary of State's Office, the WV Attorney General's Office and the Office of Inspector General for the U.S. Postal Service conducted the investigation.