Electoral Fraud in Alabama

A Republican lawmaker pleads guilty.

Via WBHM: Alabama lawmaker resigns and agrees to plead guilty to voter fraud

An Alabama legislator will plea guilty to a felony voter fraud charge that he used a fraudulent address to run for office in a district where he did not live, according to an agreement filed Thursday.

Republican Rep. David Cole, of Huntsville, resigned from the Alabama House of Representatives on Thursday. He will plead guilty to a charge of voting in an unauthorized location, according to a plea agreement filed in state court.


Alabama law requires candidates to live in a legislative district for one year before they run for office. Cole signed the lease for the space two days after a redistricting plan was enacted that placed the home, where Cole had lived since 2014, in another House district. Cole provided an altered version of the lease — which specified he was renting a house and not a 5-by-5 space — when media questions arose about his residency, prosecutors wrote in the plea agreement.

Cole in 2022 signed another lease for an apartment in District 10, but he continued to claim a property tax break from the county by saying he resided at his house, according to the plea agreement.


According to the plea agreement, Cole will serve 60 days in the Madison County Jail and the remainder of a three-year sentence on unsupervised probation.

So, on the one hand, cases like this one are why we can never say “There is no electoral fraud in the United States.” But on the other, acknowledging that electoral crimes of this nature are committed does not mean that the integrity of the electoral system is under question.

Here we have one established illegal vote cast, which is hardly enough to sway the outcome. The real problem, obviously, is a candidate being untruthful about where they live in contravention of state law. (And yes, Tommy Tuberville appears to live in Florida, so there’s that).

And yes, this is yet another example of a Republican being caught for engaging in elections-based crimes, which is galling given the party’s ongoing willingness to undermine trust in the system with false accusations of systemic fraud.

I will, however, stress that these kinds of cases are rare and tend not to have significant effects on outcomes (although in this case, having someone illegally elected to a district is no small thing). But, I would note, the actual voting was neither tainted nor fraudulent, save for the case of Cole himself. Put another way, this was not some flaw of the system that allowed fraudulent votes to be cast; this is a case of a person lying about their address.

Quite frankly, the odds are that Cole’s ability to represent District 10 had very little to do with where his house was, but that is another discussion. As a legal matter, this situation is clear.

FILED UNDER: Crime, Law and the Courts, US Politics, , , , , ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. Mister Bluster says:

    Put Republicans in jail. One criminal at a time!

  2. Jen says:

    What I believe this points to–and it’s hard to get this through the cement blocks being used as heads by some Republicans–is that this demonstrates how UNLIKELY it is that massive fraud can ever be committed.

    The found ONE fraudulent vote. ONE. This isn’t needle in a haystack-hard. Every vote must be tied to a voting precinct, and at that level, you’re able to review and find something. You aren’t looking for one vote in a million, you’re looking for one vote in the smallest election unit measure. If there were hundreds or thousands of errant votes, it would show up easily.

    Republicans seem to labor under the misconception that Democrats are defrauding the vote in large numbers and getting away with it, so they’ll just do it too, they even mentally justify it by saying this is righting the scales. They simply cannot seem to fathom that’s not true.

  3. gVOR10 says:

    We don’t all speak the same language. Whenever an expert carefully says no “significant effects on outcomes”, or “no determinative effect” or “insignificant” many people hear, “They admit there’s fraud.”

  4. MarkedMan says:

    @Jen: 30 years ago I was living in Baltimore City (yes, history repeats itself!) and I was at a wedding reception in NC and one of the people at my table was a crazy Republican from Maryland (not a politician, but heavily involved at the volunteer level). He sincerely believed that at the last election black men (of course) had arrived at all the city precincts wearing balaclavas and carrying assault rifles. All the voting boxes were silently handed over to them. Nothing was reported in the news media because they are all in on it. Could not get the guy off the subject and as per usual with these loons he really really thought he was impressing everyone with these revelations. This type of crank is the norm in the Republican base now.

    So while what you say about voter fraud is true and would convince a rational person, it will have no effect on the Repub base. They are living in cloud cuckoo land.

  5. Gavin says:

    To Republicans, “of course” they couldn’t possibly actually lose If Voters Just Really Truly Understood Their Policies.
    The appropriate remedy to the Republican, of course, is either voter fraud or felony murder of the nearest Democrat. It’s a type of second amendment solution!

  6. Monala says:

    @gVOR10: I remind them that in a small portion of the cases that get found, the person is often someone who did it by mistake (usually someone who was released from prison and thought their voting rights had been restored). But when you hear of a story of someone did it purposefully, they are almost always a Republican official.

  7. Bill Jempty says:

    Here in Florida there are supposedly snowbirds are who are both registered to vote here and in whatever northern state they live in.

  8. Bob@Youngstown says:

    @Bill Jempty:
    All the more reason for Florida to embrace ERIC (Electronic Registration Information Center).

  9. gVOR10 says:

    @Bill Jempty: People with two homes tend to vote Republican. Or at least they did when FL set up widespread mail-in voting. In all the stink about vote fraud, GOPs never seemed to bring up double voting. There’ve been a few isolated busts for it. @Monala: always Republicans.

    @Bob@Youngstown: Do you think the Republican state government wants to tighten up on it? After Trumpsky et al made a big stink about mail-in voting, FL did a show of restricting it, but all they did is make my automatic re-up shorter term.