It is beyond refute that Republicans controlling former Confederate states have long yearned for a return to Jim Crow to disenfranchise African American and working-class Americans by restricting their ability to vote. The supporters of the American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) template legislation imposing harsh conditions to participate in democracy are wont to claim vote suppression laws are not unfair and that being denied the right to vote is no reason for outrage. The implication is that if prospective voters would follow the rules, and abide by election laws, they would not be kicked off voter rolls suggesting that they only have themselves to blame for losing what is expected to be a constitutional right in America.
It is a different story, though, when a white Republican is kicked of voter rolls in Arkansas that not only incited the state party’s outrage against their own vote suppression law, it drove the candidate for state attorney general who lost the right to vote into a rage. The Republican voter, Leslie Rutledge, is a candidate for attorney general in Arkansas and her name was stricken from the voter rolls because she attempted to register in Pulaski county in spite of already being registered in multiple states besides Arkansas.
The Arkansas clerk who removed Rutledge from voter rolls said his hands were tied by the Arkansas Republican voter suppression laws, and confirmed her removal was because she is already registered to vote in Washington D.C. and Virginia. Of course Rutledge, a fierce advocate for vote suppression laws to stop voter fraud claimed, in concert with the Republican National Lawyers’ Association, that Democrats are attacking her using gender discrimination to suppress her right to vote.
The Republican National Lawyers Association ignored the fact that Rutledge is registered in more than one state and instead rushed to defend her with fake outrage accusing Democrats of using horrible dirty tricks to “systematically remove her from voter rolls within 90 days of a federal election.” The Chairman of the RNLA, Chairman J. Randy Evans, cried foul and said, “The fact is that it is a clear and unmistakable attempt at the most harmful kind of voter suppression in violation of federal law – removing a qualified female voter from the rolls in violation of her civil rights. Democrats should be embarrassed.” Republicans, including Rutledge, should be very proud and boasting loudly that their law to ferret out the very rare case of voter fraud worked so well.
In what is the epitome of Republican irony, the RNLA, in league with ALEC, has been crucial to the Republican crusade to push for mass voter purges across the country, and specifically defending various Republican state legislatures’ right to purge voters within 90 days of an election. In fact, the RNLA is the leading right-wing cabal that has, for years, screamed loudly that America is being decimated by massive voter fraud and with ALEC has pushed hard to disenfranchise poor and minority voters with harsh polling-place photo ID restrictions and supported mass voter registration roll purges by Republican officials; even if the purges take place inside the 90 days before a federal election. According to the federal National Voter Registration Act, systematic voter purges within 90 days of a federal election is a violation of the law. Rutledge is not the victim of a systematic voter purge, she is a victim of her own possibly illegal voter fraud in registering in three different states; not because she is a woman, but because the clerk was following a Republican voter fraud law.
The beautiful irony of Rutledge, who seeks to be the top law enforcement official in Arkansas, being removed from Arkansas voter rolls is that she may also be ineligible to be elected to office. According to Article 19, section 3, of the Arkansas State Constitution, “No persons shall be elected to, or appointed to fill a vacancy in, any office who does not possess the qualifications of an elector.” Obviously, because Rutledge is not registered to vote in Arkansas due to possibly committing voter fraud by being registered simultaneously in two other states, she does not “possess the qualifications of an elector.” As the Arkansas’ Blue Hog Report noted, “For the AG candidate of the party who likes to scream about voter fraud to be registered in two or three places at once is ironic and amusing on its own.” It also is voter fraud Rutledge will have a difficult time explaining away as just “typical Democratic gender discrimination.”
According to state records, Rutledge voted by absentee ballot in Arkansas’ general election in 2008 after she registered to vote in Washington D.C. in July of the same year. It gets worse for a fierce vote suppression advocate because her Arkansas absentee ballot request form for the 2008 general election is here, and her subsequent Virginia voter registration form is here. In a typically Republican hypocritical move, Rutledge boasted that, “As AG, I’ll defend voter ID laws to protect the integrity of our elections.” Rutledge’s campaign pledge was in May before her likely voter fraud problems came to light and while she believed the Republican voter suppression law could not touch a white Republican; especially one running for the top law enforcement spot in Arkansas.
Although one supports every American having and exercising their right to vote, there is justice in seeing Rutledge, who is so proud of her role in defending Arkansas election laws critics rightly identify as discriminating against minorities and low-income voters see her right to vote stricken. It is even sweet irony if she is disallowed from running for the top law enforcement office in Arkansas because on an Attorney General questionnaire she wrote; “Whether it was concerning Voter ID, Redistricting, Obamacare, or the IRS targeting conservative groups, I sat at the table side-by-side my fellow Republican attorneys and we developed legal strategies to proactively stand up against and defend our citizens from the overreach of this Administration.” She may have also committed voter fraud by registering to vote in three different states as part of an illegal “proactive stand against ‘this Administration, but that is for the criminal justice system to determine.
One wonders what Rutledge thinks of the legal strategies her fellow Republican attorneys developed now that they may have contributed to forcing an election clerk to throw her off voting rolls. If nothing else, Arkansas, Washington D.C., and Virginia election officials now have to determine to what extent Rutledge violated federal and state election laws by registering to vote in three different states within three months of one general presidential election. Something that even to a non-legal person certainly appears to be deliberate voter fraud by a Republican seeking Arkansas top law enforcement office.