As promised, here’s an update on what we currently know about (former) state Rep. and confessed criminal Hudson Hallum.
According to reports from the Associated Press, Hallum, his father, and two campaign workers pled guilty Wednesday to conspiracy to commit election fraud after federal prosecutors said the lawmaker’s campaign bribed absentee voters and destroyed ballots in a special election last year. Interestingly, the two “campaign workers” are also elected officials: one is Philip Wayne Carter, a West Memphis city councilman, and the other is Sam Malone, a West Memphis police officer, a Crittenden County Justice of the Peace, and a member of the West Memphis school board. Malone has resigned from the police department, but no word yet as to whether or not he plans to resign from the quorum court and the school board. All I can say is: thank God we have such strong beacons of morality watching over our children, our tax dollars, and our public safety!
“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.
At one point, prosecutors said, Hallum told Carter: “We need to use that black limo and buy a couple cases of some cheap vodka and whiskey to get people to vote.”
Hallum issued what amounts to a pretty crappy apology to some of his Democrat colleagues just before entering his plea:
It is with deep regret that I am sending this message out to each of you today. This afternoon I am going to plead guilty to federal charges stemming from an investigation into my special election. 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. I am truly sorry because I know this news will have an effect on everyone’s upcoming race. I would give anything to be able to change what happened but unfortunately I can not undo the past. Please accept my apologies and if any needs to contact me my number is 901-301-5650. It has been the greatest honor of my life to serve with each of you and our state is a better place for what you have done
In a statement from the Democrat Party of Arkansas, spokeswoman Candace Martin said:
“The sanctity of our elections and the rights of voters to see that every vote is counted fairly and responsibly are some of the basic, fundamental liberties of our democracy. No threat to those liberties can or should be endured.”
Clearly, Hudson Hallum agrees!
Folks, the details of this case are so disgusting, it is honestly hard for me to comment. Opponents of reasonable election reform regularly scream “RACIST” when ballot protection measures are proposed. All right: you want to talk about racism and voter disenfranchisement? How many minorities had their votes stolen from them by Hudson Hallum? How many minority ballots did he destroy? How many minorities did Hallum disenfranchise and lie to? What kind of person would do such a thing? Hudson Hallum’s actions have violated the integrity of our electoral process and created yet another national embarrassment for our state.
Obviously, voter ID laws will not solve absentee voter fraud (of which Hallum is guilty) just as they will not cure cancer or prevent obesity. They will not stop all vote fraud everywhere for all time, and they will not solve all problems in elections. But do opponents of voter ID laws feel comfortable basing their position on the fact that voter ID would only eliminate some fraud?
Vote fraud is a serious problem, as evidenced by Mr. Hallum’s actions. And we currently have a system that seems designed to overlook vote fraud. Amazingly, despite having a history of vote fraud in Arkansas, we also have a history of denial of fraud by those who oppose reform. Voter ID requirements would make it much more difficult for people to cheat and if anything, Hallum’s actions demonstrate just how easy vote fraud is. (Unlike absentee ballot fraud, voter impersonation fraud neither requires nor leaves a paper trail.) Voter ID is a step in the right direction.
Sentencing will be held later for these four criminals in this case, but the maximum penalty for the conspiracy charge is five years in prison plus a potential fine of $250,000.
Talk Business is reporting that Hallum has resigned his seat, but I have seen at least one report that indicated he has not yet officially resigned.