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Alabama lawmaker resigns and agrees to plead guilty to voter fraud

Aug 31, 2023, 1:29 PM | Updated: 5:58 pm

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — An Alabama legislator will plea guilty to a felony voter fraud charge that he used a fraudulent address to run for office in a district where he did not live, according to an agreement filed Thursday.

Republican Rep. David Cole, of Huntsville, resigned from the Alabama House of Representatives on Thursday. He will plead guilty to a charge of voting in an unauthorized location, according to a plea agreement filed in state court.

Cole, a doctor and Army veteran, was elected to the House of Representatives last year. According to a plea agreement, Cole signed a lease in 2021 to pay $5 per month for a5-by-5 space in a home in order to run for office in House District 10. Cole had some mail sent there, but never “stepped past the entry foyer” on the two times he visited the location he claimed as his residence, according to the plea agreement.

Alabama law requires candidates to live in a legislative district for one year before they run for office. Cole signed the lease for the space two days after a redistricting plan was enacted that placed the home, where Cole had lived since 2014, in another House district. Cole provided an altered version of the lease — which specified he was renting a house and not a 5-by-5 space — when media questions arose about his residency, prosecutors wrote in the plea agreement.

Cole in 2022 signed another lease for an apartment in District 10, but he continued to claim a property tax break from the county by saying he resided at his house, according to the plea agreement.

“Dr. Cole admits and takes full responsibility for the mistakes he made in the political process. He entered the process to serve his community. (He) has lived a life of service including serving for 22 years in the Army with tours in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Egypt,” Bill Espy, a lawyer representing Cole, said in a statement on Cole’s behalf.

According to the plea agreement, Cole will serve 60 days in the Madison County Jail and the remainder of a three-year sentence on unsupervised probation.

Cole’s arrest on Tuesday comes after accusations surfaced that he did not live in the district in which he was elected.

Elijah Boyd, the Libertarian candidate in the district, had filed an election challenge in civil court, arguing that Cole did not live in District 10 and was not eligible to represent the district.

Cole is the second lawmaker to resign this year after facing criminal charges. Rep. Fred Plump Jr., a Democrat from Fairfield, resigned in May. Plump pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy and obstruction of justice.

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Alabama lawmaker resigns and agrees to plead guilty to voter fraud