Depending on who you ask, the general response to Pulaski County Circuit Clerk Larry Crane’s removal of Republican Attorney General candidate Leslie Rutledge from the voter rolls seems to fall somewhere between “man, what was she thinking” and “Larry Crane is Obama!!!!”1
The people who fall closer to the latter camp are taking the tried-and-true Republican Twitter strategy of claiming any story about something improper a Republican did is only being reported because some partisan Democrat made it an issue. That argument is absurd for a couple of reasons, and it will be the subject of another post later tonight.
For now, however, the most important thing, is how Leslie Rutledge chooses to explain affirmative statements that she made on legal forms during a specific period in her life.
You see, on July 3, 2008, Leslie Rutledge took the affirmative step of registering to vote in Washington D.C. The registration form, like all voter-registration forms in the United States, required her to list an address for her permanent residence. She listed 129 4th SE St., Washington, D.C. 20003. Note: this is not some weird situation where she accidentally registered to vote as a consequence of, say, getting a D.C. driver’s license; Rutledge specifically, personally filled out the voter-registration form, with the express intent of registering to vote in Washington D.C., and she claimed D.C. residency to do so.
Just over two months later, on September 15, 2008, Leslie Rutledge requested an absentee ballot from Pulaski County, Arkansas, claiming that she was going to be unavoidably absent from the state on election day and asking that the ballot be sent to her previously registered address, 3322 Shenandoah Valley Drive in Little Rock. More importantly, at least in this context, she checked the box on the application for an absentee ballot that stated, “I reside within the county within the county in which I am registered to vote.” Considering that it is impossible to reside, for legal-residency purposes, in both Arkansas and Washington D.C. simultaneously, this is an odd thing for someone to claim.
Even more strange, at least for someone who wants us to believe that she was an Arkansas resident throughout, Rutledge added to the idea that she did not consider Arkansas to be her legal residence when she registered to vote in Virginia on or about September 20, 2010. Again, she was asked to list her “Residence (Permanent) Home Address,” and she wrote 401 Holland Ln. #1116, Alexandria, VA 22314. By her own admission, she voted in Virginia in 2010 and 2012.
Then, as if to cap the whole thing off, on March 8, 2013, Leslie Rutledge filed a change-of-address form with the Pulaski County Circuit Clerk. She listed her previous address as the place on Shenandoah Valley Dr., then listed a new Little Rock address as the new place of residence. No mention was made of the places that she specifically, under penalty of perjury, had listed as her legal residences from 2008 until 2013, despite the fact that the change-of-address form specifically required her to state her previous residence, rather than her previous Pulaski County address.
So what gives? We’re left with two possible explanations.
In the first one, Leslie Rutledge moved to D.C. prior to July 3, 2008, and she considered herself a D.C. resident, so she registered to vote there. For whatever reason, two months later, she decided that, no, she was actually an Arkansas resident (at the same address she’d left behind), and she requested an Arkansas absentee ballot for that election. Then, at some point between 9/15/08 and 9/20/10, she decided that she was actually a Virginia resident, so she registered to vote there as well. I suppose that whole scenario is plausible, and I’m sure it is what she would like Arkansans to believe, even if it does make her look callow and fickle. At least it’s not criminal, right?
The second scenario, on the other hand, is not nearly as rosy. In that version, she either didn’t know or didn’t care that claiming legal residency in D.C. meant that there was no legal residency in Arkansas. She ignored the fact that requesting an absentee ballot from Arkansas two months after registering to vote in D.C., and claiming legal residency in Arkansas to do it, was potentially a felony. (Ed. Note: The statute of limitations on that felony did not begin to run until she returned to Arkansas was extended for up to three additional years due to her absence from the state during that timeframe.) To cap it all off, Rutledge then used an improperly completed change-of-address form in an attempt to make it appear as if she’d never been a resident of D.C. or Virginia, and she filed an affidavit of eligibility that was based, at least in part, on that misrepresentation in her change of address.
Whether her actions rise to the level of voter fraud in Arkansas, D.C., and/or Virginia is a question for prosecutors, but the mere fact that is is a question at all is a much, much larger deal than Rutledge is apparently willing to admit. It should also be more than enough reason to keep anyone who isn’t voting based entirely on party affiliation from voting her.
UPDATE (10:12PM): Most of the defense of Rutledge (and/or excoriation of Crane) seems to be based on the idea that Leslie registered to vote in Arkansas in March 2013. That position is dubious at best.
The change-of-address form that Rutledge filed in March 2013 stated explicitly, “This form is only valid for address and/or name changes within Pulaski County.”
So, if you are already living in Pulaski County, and you move within Pulaski County, you can use that form and have your records updated.
If, on the other hand, you are moving to Pulaski County from another state, the bottom of that form explains, “When moving to Pulaski County from another state, you must complete a new voter registration application.” Which is to say, you can’t use the Pulaski County address-change form; you have to use this form instead.
The real kicker here is that Rutledge knew that moving to Pulaski County required the official form. It’s the exact same form that she filled out when she transferred her voter registration from Independence County to Pulaski County in 2006.
Oh, but maybe she didn’t really think she had moved away from Pulaski County. That seems like a likely excuse, right?
Problem with that story — in addition to the registration in other states where she had to list a permanent residence — is that it doesn’t match any of the available evidence. For instance, one assumes that, if Rutledge was a Pulaski Co. resident the entire time, she would have assessed her car in that county throughout.
Instead, her vehicle assessments match the same, Leslie-doesn’t-live-here narrative as her voter registration:
So, are we to believe that she just chose not to pay personal property taxes on her car for 2009 through 2012? Because that would be a weird assumption. Maybe we should just chalk this up to the more obvious idea that she lived elsewhere.
Yet, assuming we go with the lived-elsewhere theory, we’re pretty much forced to conclude that Rutledge’s filing of a change-0f-address form in Pulaski County in March 2013 was not a valid change of address, nor was it a valid attempt to register to vote in Arkansas. It was, at best, an attempt to pretend like she had always considered Arkansas her legal residence.2 Unfortunately for the people who want to pretend like Rutledge was just not well-versed enough in the law to realize that she did not register properly, that position is destroyed by her proper change of address from Independence Co to Pulaski Co in 2006.
In the end, no matter how we look at the available data, we cannot arrive at a conclusion that Rutledge’s March 2013 attempt at registration was valid without also arriving a conclusion that she committed voter fraud in Virginia in 2010 and 2012.