And you thought the DHS rumors were troubling.
According to multiple reports — the veracity of which I have no reason to doubt, but the confirmation of which I will have to wait until 8am tomorrow to confirm — the Pulaski County Circuit Clerk’s office has cancelled the voter registration of Leslie Rutledge, Republican candidate for Attorney General.
Ms. Rutledge was apparently registered to vote in Pulaski County, as well as in Washington D.C. and (possibly) Virginia. Because the D.C. registration was subsequent to her transferring her Arkansas registration from Independence County to Pulaski County in 2006, her Pulaski County registration was subject to cancelation for having moved outside the county.
Assuming this is true, which it seems to be, it has a couple of implications. First, for the AG candidate of the party who likes to scream about voter fraud to be registered in two (or three) places at once is ironic and amusing on its own.
However, the bigger implication is Article 19, section 3, of the Arkansas Constitution, which states:
No persons shall be elected to, or appointed to fill a vacancy in, any office who does not possess the qualifications of an elector.
“The qualifications of an elector” are defined in Article 3, section 1, and they include this that the person must be “Lawfully registered to vote in the election.” Which means, of course, that, if you aren’t lawfully registered to vote in the election, you cannot run for office in that election.
There will be more to come on this story tonight and certainly tomorrow. I will post on Twitter and Facebook any time it updates.
UPDATE (6:41PM): John Brummett gets some confirmation.
County clerk confirms Rutledge purged. It's gonna hit the fan. http://t.co/ghEmdKr4td
— johnbrummett (@johnbrummett) September 30, 2014
UPDATE 2 (7:42PM): I love it when people ask intelligent questions. On Facebook and Twitter, people have insightfully been asking, if Article 19, section 3, only says that someone has to be registered to vote to be elected to a position, can Leslie go register tomorrow and fix this whole issue. There’s a valid argument to be made that she could. However, that still won’t fix at least two other problems.
First, under Arkansas law, a candidate is required to file an affidavit of eligibility at or before noon on the filing deadline date. This affidavit attests that the person is eligible to hold the office for which she is filing. By definition, an affidavit is made under oath or affirmation. An affidavit is (by definition) made under oath or affirmation.
Of course, by signing and filing an affidavit that she was eligible to hold the office of Attorney General when she was not, Rutledge opens herself to a charge of false swearing under Ark. Code Ann. 5-53-103, a Class A misdemeanor. She could plead ignorance to the whole thing — the Mark Darr, “I’m too dumb to know this was illegal” defense — but how will a lack of legal knowledge play with voters?
Secondly, it is a Class D felony for someone to “vote in any election in the state unless the person is a qualified elector of this state and has registered to vote in the manner provided by law.” (Ark. Code Ann. 7-1-104) Under that same subsection, any person convicted of a felony related to voting “shall be barred from holding public office or employment in any of the departments of the state from the date of his or her conviction.”
If Rutledge moved back to Arkansas more than three years ago, the statute of limitations would have run on that felony. Nevertheless, does she really want to run under the banner of “I would have been charged with a felony if someone had caught it earlier”? Conversely, if she moved back to Arkansas within the last three years, she could still be looking at a felony charge. In either event, it might be better just to slink away as “ineligible,” whether she is or not, if only to save what little bit of dignity she has left.
Finally — and this may be the biggest hurdle — the filing of an affidavit of eligibility and the holding of the qualifications of an elector are mandatory requirements before someone can even be listed as a candidate. Those are base requirements just for someone to run in a primary. If she was ineligible to run in or win the primary, she would by extension be ineligible to run in the general election. Registering to vote after the fact would not fix this as far as I can tell.
UPDATE 3 (7:55 AM, Wednesday): I see where Rutledge’s voter registration card is making the rounds. It’s fairly meaningless as such things go, since it doesn’t get to the issue of whether she was illegally voting elsewhere in the meantime or whether she was continuing to maintain voter registration elsewhere.
However, if the 2013 voter registration card is taken to mean that 2013 was when she moved back to Arkansas, then she could still be looking at some felony problems stemming from that 2008 absentee ballot.
Also, just all around not a great afternoon for Leslie Rutledge. David Ramsey reports that questions are being raised about whether Rutledge coordinated with a SuperPAC on an ad.
Rutledge’s defense to Talk Business was that the ad does not advocate voting for or against Rutledge or identify her as a candidate for AG. She’s wading deep into gray area, as the words “Attorney General” appear in the tagline and she identifies herself and lists her campaign promises. But she’s also claiming that she can coordinate with a 527 Super Pac on an independent expenditure. Basically, the Rutledge campaign is putting out an advertisement, an advertisement that the campaign helped create, featuring Leslie Rutledge articulating her platform and saying she’ll fight Obamacare, as her name and “Attorney General” flash on the screen — and arguing that it’s perfectly kosher for a Super PAC to pay for it as an “independent” expenditure.