LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) – A Democratic state legislator from east Arkansas, his father and two campaign workers pleaded guilty Wednesday to conspiracy to commit election fraud after federal prosecutors said they bribed absentee voters and destroyed ballots in a special election last year.
Prosecutors said Democratic Rep. Hudson Hallum of Marion, Kent Hallum, Phillip Wayne Carter and Sam Malone acknowledged that they participated in a conspiracy to bribe voters to influence absentee votes in the Arkansas District 54 primary, runoff and general elections in 2011. The three were released pending a sentencing hearing.
“In a nation in which every person’s vote matters, protecting the integrity of the electoral process from those who seek to win office by cheating the system is critical,” U.S. Attorney Jane Duke said in a statement released by her office. “Voter fraud schemes such as that carried out in the 2011 District 54 race have the devastating effect of eroding public confidence in elected officials and disenfranchising voters.”
A Democratic Party spokeswoman said Hallum indicated he would step down from his seat, but officials had not received a formal resignation by Wednesday afternoon.
Hallum didn’t respond to phone messages from The Associated Press seeking comment, and Arkansas House officials said he hadn’t spoken with House Speaker Robert Moore. But in an email sent to other Democratic legislators, Hallum apologized for his actions.
“I took some bad advice that led to some bad decisions on my part. I am going to stand up and accept full responsibility for my actions,” Hallum wrote. “I am truly sorry because I know this news will have an effect on everyone’s upcoming race.”
Prosecutors said Hallum and his father, Kent, tasked Carter and Malone with obtaining absentee ballot applications for certain voters and assisting voters in filling out the ballots, “actually completing absentee ballots in some instances without regard to the voter’s actual candidate choice.”
The ballots were typically placed in unsealed envelopes before being mailed to local election officials.
“If a ballot contained a vote for Hudson Hallum’s opponent, it was destroyed,” prosecutors said in a bill of information filed with the court.
Prosecutors also accused the four of offering money and food to absentee voters in exchange for their support.
Hallum won the east Arkansas seat in a special election last year following the resignation of Rep. Fred Smith, who stepped down after he was found guilty of felony theft of property delivered by mistake. A judge later dismissed the theft case, but Smith was blocked from running in the Democratic primary against Hallum for his old seat because he had a conviction at the time he filed.
Smith is now running as the Green Party nominee for the seat. No Republican is running.
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