(WHNT) — Madison-area State Representative David Cole was arrested Tuesday afternoon and charged with voter fraud, according to Madison County jail records.
Cole, a Republican, won 52% of the vote in the House District 10 race in November 2022.
Cole was arrested and booked into the Madison County Jail, the case was investigated and handled by the Alabama Attorney General’s Office, according to the Madison County Sheriff’s Office.
News 19 has reached out to Cole and his attorneys, Alabama Republican Party Chairman John Wahl and the Attorney General’s office, but we have not yet received any response.
Cole’s residency was raised as an issue by Elijah Boyd, the Libertarian candidate who finished third in the race last year. Boyd filed a lawsuit on Nov. 22 alleging Cole was ineligible to run for the Madison County seat because he failed to meet the state law requirement that he reside in the district for at least one year prior to the general election.
Cole’s campaign has said he and his family moved in with a friend prior to that date and subsequently moved into their own residence within the district. In responding to the lawsuit, Cole’s attorneys have not focused on that dispute, instead arguing that under state law an Alabama circuit court has no jurisdiction and that it is exclusively a matter for the Alabama Legislature.
“The Alabama Constitution reserves exclusive jurisdiction to the Alabama House of Representatives over a challenge to the ‘election, returns, and qualifications of its members.’ (‘Each house shall choose its own officers and shall judge of the election, returns, and qualifications of its members.’). Plaintiff/Contestant is not left without a remedy but his remedy lies with the legislative branch, not the judicial branch,” Cole’s attorneys argued in a motion to dismiss the lawsuit.
Madison County Circuit Judge Ruth Ann Hall rejected the motion to dismiss the lawsuit.
Cole’s residency was first raise 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.
Knowles told News 19 Wednesday that he has rejoined the Libertarian Party. He said he feels sorry for Cole and his family and said the situation could have been avoided.
“The ALGOP establishment created this problem because their Steering Committee chose not to perform its due diligence,” he said. “There were many offramps available to Cole and none were taken.”
Alabama House Speaker Nathaniel Ledbetter issued a statement on the arrest on Tuesday evening:
“This afternoon, the Speaker’s Office became aware of David Cole’s arrest on the charge of fraud—voting at an unauthorized location. As this is an ongoing investigation, we are still waiting to learn more details as they become available.
In recent years, the Alabama House has prioritized legislation that promotes election integrity, and we believe that any allegation of fraud must be addressed regardless of the party, public official, or candidate involved.
Alabamians may remain confident that their elections are conducted honestly, their votes are cast and counted fairly, and their ballot boxes are secure. Now, it is up to a court of law to determine the validity of the allegations Cole is facing, and I anticipate Alabama’s election laws will withstand their true intent.”
The arrest record cites Alabama Code § 17-17-28 for Cole’s arrest. The code section says that anyone who “knowingly presents false identification in order to vote at a polling place where he or she otherwise would not be qualified to vote, or who knowingly votes at a polling place where he or she has not been authorized to vote, or who knowingly votes at more than one polling place in the same election on the same day shall be guilty, upon conviction, of a Class C felony.”
The Madison County Democratic Executive Committee Chair Shelia McNeil weighed in on the arrest Wednesday morning.
“Voter fraud is an assault on democracy and is especially egregious when perpetrated by an elected official. I’m happy to see that Madison County takes voter fraud seriously and is taking steps to protect the integrity of our electoral process.
“But Mr. Cole isn’t the only one at fault here. The Alabama Legislature could have corrected this wrong itself, according to the Alabama Supreme Court. The GOP-dominated House of Representatives, apparently more concerned about politics and power than the voters of House District 10, declined to do so. The Madison County residents in District 10 deserve better than to be treated as tools of the GOP’s political priorities. We hope that Cole’s arrest will begin the process of restoring to them their right to elect legal, eligible candidates, regardless of party.”
Elijah Boyd’s attorney Barry A. Ragsdale told News 19, “Cole‘s hubris and loose relationship with the truth finally caught up with him. The voters in Madison County deserved better and I’m glad that our election contest was able to shine a light on his fraud.”