President Donald Trump seems to endlessly rant about supposed election fraud, although actual instances of fraud are a lot fewer than he claims and are consistently found out and dealt with by authorities. This week, authorities in West Virginia announced that a man had been criminally charged after he altered absentee ballot requests, changing the party affiliation from Democratic to Republican in at least five cases. (In three other cases, he altered other parts of the ballot requests.) The perpetrator of the attempted fraud is 47-year-old Thomas Cooper, who is a mail carrier and faces up to eight years in prison, although as part of a plea deal, prosecutors have agreed to seek a reduced sentence.
‘A West Virginia mail carrier is facing prison time after admitting he attempted election fraud by changing the party registrations of people who had requested absentee ballots for the state’s June primary, officials announced Thursday. Thomas Cooper, 47, of Dry Fork signed an agreement in which he pleaded guilty to one count of attempting to defraud the residents of West Virginia of a fair election and one count of injury to the mail.’
Cooper’s defense is that he altered the ballot requests as a “joke.” The ballots were for the state’s June primary, and investigators got Cooper to admit to changing the ballot requests in April. The Clerk of Pendleton County double-checked the requests on account of them appearing to have been altered with a black pen. When the voters behind the requests were called — some of whom the clerk knew to be Democrats, not Republicans — a number of them explained that they’d used blue pens on the requests.
Cooper’s attorney Scott Curnutte commented:
‘He is deeply sorry for the implications for our democratic process. It should be remembered, however, that the mail he altered were requests for ballots, not ballots themselves.’
There are a number of security measures in place, like signature verification, that help protect the security of mail-in ballots. Mail-in ballots are already used on a very large scale in the United States to the point that an estimate reported by the Brennan Center suggests that one out of every four votes in the last two federal elections were cast via the mail.
Trump has baselessly alleged that mail-in voting sets the stage for some kind of huge fraud, and according to Trump, this imaginary fraud, of course, benefits Democrats.
Just this Friday morning, Trump tweeted:
‘Mail-In Ballot fraud found in many elections. People are just now seeing how bad, dishonest and slow it is. Election results could be delayed for months. No more big election night answers? 1% not even counted in 2016. Ridiculous! Just a formula for RIGGING an Election’
….Absentee Ballots are fine because you have to go through a precise process to get your voting privilege. Not so with Mail-Ins. Rigged Election!!! 20% fraudulent ballots?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 10, 2020
All of that is nonsense. Again — mail-in ballots are already used on a large scale in the United States. They are not new. Five states conduct their elections almost entirely by mail, and in many other states, any voter can request a mail-in ballot, no questions asked. As the Coronavirus pandemic has raged, some areas have ramped up the accessibility of mail-in voting, which has given Trump the opportunity to complain.