A West Virginia postal worker is facing time behind bars after pleading guilty to attempted election fraud 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 after he was found to have altered absentee ballot requests using a black pen.
The Department of Justice said that Cooper changed five ballot requests from Democrat to Republican, but the adjustment was caught by the county clerk, who knew the voters personally and knew they were not Republicans. The clerk then alerted the West Virginia Secretary of State’s office, which began an investigation.
The party was not changed on the other three ballots, but the Justice Department said the requests were still altered.
“[I did it] as a joke,” Cooper said, according to a complaint. “[I] don’t even know them.”
Cooper faces up to eight years in prison.
“He is deeply sorry for the implications for our democratic process,” Cooper’s attorney, Scott Curnutte, told BuzzFeed News. “It should be remembered, however, that the mail he altered were requests for ballots, not ballots themselves.”