HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — Alabama Rep. David Cole resigned from his seat 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. Thursday.
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.
Cole, a Republican, won 52% of the vote in the House District 10 race in November 2022
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 court records showed a filing called an “Application to Plead Guilty on Information.” An information is basically an agreement by a defendant and prosecutors about the charge, and it does not require a grand jury to issue an indictment.
Cole’s Attorney William Espy issued a statement today in connection with the case:
“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
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.”
Cole has 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.
“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 previously argued in a motion to dismiss the lawsuit.
Madison County Circuit Judge Ruth Ann Hall rejected that motion to dismiss the lawsuit.
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.
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 said previously in a statement that he was aware of the arrest but said the investigation was still ongoing and the house was awaiting more details. His statement also addressed election integrity.
“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,” he said, “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 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.”
The voter fraud charge is a Class C felony.