HUNTINGTON — West Virginia was mentioned on the first night of the 2020 presidential debates, and on Wednesday state officials took time to clarify that mention.
“They have mailmen with lots of — did you see what’s going on? Take a look at West Virginia — mailmen selling the ballots. They are being sold. They are being dumped in rivers. This is a horrible thing for our country,” Trump said.
West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner, a Republican, clarified Wednesday that West Virginia experienced a unique circumstance where a postal carrier altered absentee ballot applications, not ballots.
A county clerk uncovered the altered applications and quickly turned the case over to the secretary of state, Warner’s office said.
The U.S. attorney for the Northern District of West Virginia prosecuted the case, and in July, the postal carrier pleaded guilty.
“Voters should be confident that this election will be safe, secure and fair,” Warner said.
He praised West Virginia’s 55 county clerks who work tirelessly to prevent election fraud and interference of all types from taking place.
“We have conducted extensive training with clerks and election officials, covering everything from cybersecurity, 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.
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said during a press call Wednesday she believes it undermines the election to cast doubt on the nation’s and West Virginia’s mail-in voting system. She said she believed the primary was handled very well in West Virginia.
“We got results on time. They were accurate. There weren’t a lot of complaints,” she said.
Capito said the president should be very positive about the authenticity of mail-in voting.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., also spoke out against Trump’s claim.
“It’s plain wrong that President Trump would mislead Americans to think mail-in voter fraud is happening in West Virginia,” he said in a statement Wednesday. “There is no widespread voter fraud in West Virginia, and any claim to the contrary is false.
“Mail-in voting is safe, and altering ballots is a felony punishable with up to five years in prison and a $20,000 fine in West Virginia, in addition to any federal penalty. To suggest anything different is just not true, and an attempt to undermine Americans’ faith in our Democratic process and disparage West Virginia is wrong.”
Republican Gov. Jim Justice was asked about the comment during his daily COVID-19 press briefing Wednesday. He said he was overall disappointed in the debate, calling it an ugly food fight.
The Secretary of State’s Office has a toll-free phone number to take complaints of improper election activities: 877-FRAUD-WV (877-372-8688).