HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — Alabama Rep. David Cole resigned from his seat on Thursday after applying to plead guilty to a voter fraud felony charge.
The Alabama House Speaker Nathaniel Ledbetter’s Office told News 19 they received Cole’s resignation letter just after 2 p.m.
Court records show Cole’s plea agreement calls for him to serve 60 days in the Madison County Jail. The plea agreement says Cole agrees to a three-year prison sentence which is split between the 60-day jail term with the remainder on probation.
The plea agreement also says Cole agrees that the 60 days in jail is a “material part” of the plea agreement and the state agrees to not bring any additional charges based on his past conduct known to the state. It also includes Cole’s agreement to resign from office and pay back all money he earned as a member of the Alabama House of Representatives.
The agreement says in 2021 Cole planned to run for the District 10 seat but also knew because of redistricting his residence — which was in District 10 — might end up being in another district.
The House redistricting resulted in Cole’s home being located in District 4, not District 10, according to the plea agreement. So he asked a friend who had a house in the District if he could lease space to sleep in, the agreement says. So on Nov. 5, 2021, Cole agreed to a $5 a month lease for a 5×5 area, according to the agreement. On Nov. 8, a year before the 2022 general election, Cole filled out an online voter registration form claiming that home was now his residence, the plea agreement says.
But, Cole never made any attempt to move into the home, never ate or slept there, visited the house twice and never stepped past the foyer, the plea agreement says. The plea agreement says despite those facts, Cole used that address to run for the District 10 seat.
The plea deal says Cole voted absentee using the address in the 2022 primary and in the 2022 runoff, he “knowingly voted in person at a polling place where he was not authorized to vote” because he had falsely used his friend’s home address to register within District 10, the plea agreement claims.
Cole’s Attorney William Espy issued a statement Thursday after Cole submitted his application to plead guilty:
“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. The Cole family appreciates all the prayers and support from his friends and community during this time. Dr. Cole will continue to serve his community going forward.”William Espy
Cole, who was elected as the District 10 representative in 2022, was arrested Tuesday and charged with voting in a location where he was not authorized to vote or voting in more than one location. The Alabama Attorney General’s office brought the investigation, records show, but the AG’s office has not yet commented on the case.
The charge against Cole follows a lawsuit brought last year following the 2022 election. The suit filed by Libertarian candidate Elijah Boyd alleged Cole did not live in District 10 for a year before last November’s election as is required by state law.
Cole’s residency was first raised as an issue by Anson Knowles, who had qualified to run for the District 10 seat as a Republican. Knowles said he brought the issue to party officials, but in the end, he was removed from the ballot and Cole’s candidacy was allowed to continue.
Cole previously responded to the case by arguing that under state law an Alabama Circuit Court has no jurisdiction and it is exclusively a matter for the Alabama Legislature. Madison County Circuit Judge Ruth Ann Hall rejected that motion to dismiss the lawsuit.
News 19 asked Ledbetter’s office what the next steps are for Cole, and a spokesperson said, “It is out of the hands of the House – it is up to the court system and prosecutors to figure out where to take this.”