President Trump claims West Virginia mailmen stealing election ballots

Published: Sep. 30, 2020 at 11:19 AM EDT
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - During Tuesday night’s presidential debate, President Donald Trump said mailmen in West Virginia have stolen and sold ballots.

“You either do, Chris, a solicited ballot, where you’re sending it in, they’re sending it back, and you’re sending ... They have mailmen with lots of ... Did you see what’s going on? Take a look at West Virginia. Mailmen, selling the ballots. They’re being sold. They’re being dumped in rivers. This is a horrible thing for our country," President Trump said to debate moderator Chris Wallace.

West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner said Trump over spoke during the debate and confused what has happened in West Virginia with incidents in other states across the country. No votes or outcomes have been altered because of mail-in ballots in West Virginia, Warner said.

“(Requesting an absentee ballot) is very quick, very efficient,” Warner said. “Then vote that ballot and get it back in the mail. We didn’t have any problems in the primary to speak of. We had perhaps the best primary in the United States right here in West Virginia, and we’re going to do even better in this general election.”

Warner said 96 percent of ballots have no problems at all while the other 4 percent could be mismarked by the voter or lost in the mail.

“There are two trusted sources, one is your County Clerk, one is, the Secretary of State’s office,” Warner said. “Don’t trust Facebook, don’t trust your neighbor, don’t trust any other sources of information other than those two sources.”

Warner said Trump was likely thinking of a unique circumstance where a postal carrier altered eight absentee ballot applications, not ballots, during the primary election.

A mail carrier was facing charges in May in connection to the manipulation of absentee voter requests. According to Warner, The U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of WV prosecuted the case, and in July, the postal carrier pleaded guilty. The U.S. Attorney office said the mailman is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 4.

“When it does happen, we have the means in place to catch it, which is what we did with our Anti-Fraud Task Force,” Warner said. “The system works as it’s supposed to.”

“The president is highlighting the problems with the vote-by-mail where they simply send ballots out the everybody,” Warner continued. “Right here in West Virginia, to give you an example, we had 450,000 people who voted in the primary. We have 1.2 million registered voters. So if we had sent ballots out to everybody, which is what Washington, Oregon, Utah and some of these other states do, then you would have had 700,000 ballots sitting out there. More ballots not getting used than the people who actually used them. That’s what the president is bringing attention to.”

According to Warner, states can mitigate the increase of possible election fraud with effective strategies to deter, investigate and prosecute those who would attempt to cheat.

“We have conducted extensive training with clerks and election officials, covering everything from cyber security, to continuity of operations, to preventing and detecting fraud. This was a prime example of a dedicated clerk, closely watching her election process, and quickly reporting an anomaly as she had been trained to do. The system worked, and we were able to rapidly assure the voters of West Virginia that the election was secure,” Warner said.

Warner said people can track their absentee ballot from the time it is requested until the completed ballot is processed by their County Clerk office. Warner recommended that if a ballot is not marked as received by election day, the voter goes to their polling place and casts a provisional ballot in case the absentee ballot has been lost in the mail.

Anyone who suspects voter fraud or other improper election activity is asked to contact the Secretary of State’s office at 877-372-8688.

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