Wednesday, July 24, 2024

An Open Letter to Leslie Rutledge (UPDATED)

Happier days, May 2014.

October 3, 2014

Ms. Leslie Rutledge
523 S Louisiana St.
Little Rock, AR 72201

Re: Voter Registration

Dear Leslie,

I realize that the last week has not been especially kind to your candidacy for Attorney General, but I hope this letter finds you well nonetheless. I am writing with some unsolicited advice, which you are of course free to ignore, about the whole voter-registration issue. Specifically, my advice is go to the Clerk’s office TODAY and register to vote.

I know, I know…that is going to force you to admit that the previous address-change form that you filed was not a valid registration, which will also force you to dial back the victim routine a bit and abandon the “Larry Crane should reinstate me” stuff, but hear me out.

There are three options available to you at this point. First, you can do nothing. You can maintain that you were wronged by Mr. Crane, refuse to register to vote, and act as if everything is moving ahead regardless. The problem with that route, however, is that, come 5pm on Monday, Nate Steel is the next Attorney General of Arkansas, because there will be no way that you could be a registered voter as of the date of the general election. So, honestly, this is the worst route you could possibly take. I wouldn’t advise it.

Second, you could sue Larry Crane and try to get the courts to order him to reinstate your registration. This presents a couple problems, though. For one, you would almost certainly have to register to vote anyway, because the court is unlikely to intervene in something like this where you had the ability to cure the underlying problem and chose not to. More importantly, putting all your eggs in the litigation basket is risky, because that suit is almost certainly a loser.  Larry Crane followed the constitutional provisions that govern his office, and convincing a court that you were wronged in this situation is going to be a hard argument to make.  Not to mention, the timeline for getting that resolved is pretty tight at this point — you could get it in front of the circuit court between now and November 4, but you’d really be running close to the deadline if the circuit court disagreed with you and you were forced to appeal.  So, yeah; suing Mr. Crane is not a good option.

Third, you can suck it up and go register to vote.  That would at least fix the whole issue about whether, should you win on November 4, you could actually take office.  And, just between you and me (and, I suppose, anyone reading this open letter), it’s pretty unlikely that a lawsuit challenging your candidacy retroactively based on the documents filed before the primary would be successful.  The Arkansas Supreme Court has made it clear time and time again that ballot challenges are mandatory prior to an election, but are moot (or discretionary at best) once the election has passed.

Now, sure, the third option is the least appealing from an ego standpoint.  I get that.  Spinning the story as your being the victim of a vast left-wing conspiracy to disenfranchise Republican women is much sexier than admitting that you screwed up your own voter registration by filing a change of address form that specifically said it was only for address changes within Pulaski County.  But this isn’t about what is sexy; this is about fixing a single flaw that, if left uncorrected, will result in thousands of votes cast for you on November 4 being uncounted.  Whether you win or lose on November 4, you should at least let voters have the option of casting a meaningful vote for you.


Matt Campbell

P.S. If you are going to register to vote, you really should do it before the end of today, just in case the challenge to the minimum-wage amendment is successful based on the date signatures were turned in.  You’d hate to wait until Monday to register, only to find out in a week or two that a Monday registration might be invalid for the same reason that the initiated act is invalid.  -M

UPDATE (7:41PM): It appears that Ms. Rutledge, perhaps guided by sage legal advice from a certain azul cerdo, registered to vote via the Secretary of State’s office today. Leaving aside the wisdom of making Mark Martin your port in any storm (especially a voter-registration-issue storm), this was still the right move for Leslie today.

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