W.Va. official refutes Trump claim about ballot fraud

President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden participate in the first presidential debate Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020, at Case Western University and Cleveland Clinic, in Cleveland. (Olivier Douliery/Pool vi AP)

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia’s secretary of state on Wednesday refuted President Donald Trump’s claim that a postal worker in the state was “selling ballots,” while two U.S. senators expressed full confidence in the elections.

Trump’s remark during Tuesday’s presidential debate was referring to the case of postal worker Thomas Cooper, who 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.

Republican U.S. Sen. Shelley Capito told reporters on a call that she had “full faith in the absentee ballots” being mailed out. Voters in the state have until Oct. 28 to apply for an absentee ballot for the November election.

“A lot of states are going to go all mail-in, and I think it undermines the election to plant those seeds of doubt,” Capito said about Trump’s remarks.

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 also 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.