CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia's secretary of state said Wednesday that a postal worker had tried to alter absentee ballot applications, but he refuted President Donald Trump's claim that the employee was "selling ballots."
The postal worker, Thomas Cooper, pleaded guilty in July to attempted election fraud and injury to the mail after changing five ballot requests from Democrat to Republican. He also altered three other ballot applications by circling the word "Republican" in a different color ink than what was used on the forms, Secretary of State Mac Warner said in a written statement.
The attempted fraud was a "unique circumstance where a postal carrier altered absentee ballot applications, not ballots," Warner said.
Trump said of ballots in West Virginia, "They're being sold. They're being dumped in rivers." It was among several other false claims the president made about the nation's election system at a time when many more people are trying to vote by mail because of the coronavirus pandemic.
"There is going to be a fraud like you've never seen," Trump said.
Warner said that is not true. "Voters should be confident that this election will be safe, secure, and fair," he said.
The Republican secretary of state added that he shared Trump's concerns about the potential for an increase in election fraud, but he said states can prevent it. In the West Virginia case, he said an "astute county clerk" identified the altered ballot applications and alerted Warner's office.
Warner said an Election Anti-Fraud Task Force, which includes federal and state law enforcement, got a confession out of the mailman within days in May.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin denounced Trump's claims.
"There is no widespread voter fraud in West Virginia and any claim to the contrary is false," he said in a written statement.
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