MARION, AR (abc24.com) - They were willing to buy your vote for $20 or a pack of cigarettes. An Arkansas state lawmaker and his friends called themselves "the dream team." Now that dream is a nightmare after all of them pleaded guilty to election fraud. The U.S. District Attorney in East Arkansas indicted State Representative Hudson Hallum of Marion. The Arkansas Democratic Party confirmed Hallum resigned after he faced a federal judge Wednesday.
West Memphis City Councilman Phillip Carter, West Memphis Police Officer Sam Malone, Hudson Hallum, and his father Kent Hallum all pleaded guilty in a conspiracy to bribe voters to influence absentee votes in the District 54 primary election runoff in 2011. The district includes West Memphis, Marion, Earle, Turrell and other rural areas of Crittenden County. Hudson Hallum beat his opponent by just 8 votes. Many came from absentee ballots, reviewed by Hallum before they were mailed to election headquarters.
“The runners of this organization, the Malones and the Carters if you will, would accumulate the absentee ballots and give them to Kent or Hudson Hallum for basically their review," said the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, Jane Duke. “They wanted to make sure if the absentee ballots had been in fact cast for Hudson Hallum. If it had not been, in most circumstances if not all, the ballots were destroyed and were not mailed on to the clerk's office for count."
"I warned him,” said the police officer’s former friend and an attorney in Crittenden County, Hubert Bass. “He (Malone) would brag to me about how he was handling the absentee ballots, that he would go to people's mailboxes and get them out and I told him, Malone you can't do that, you're going to get in trouble.”
ABC24 News went to Hallum's home. His truck was in his driveway but no one opened the door. According to the indictment Carter, Malone and others would "buy" a person's vote for $20, alcohol, food, or even cigarettes. It may not be much of a payout but Hallum certainly cashed in on Election Day.
"Voting is a very sacred right. It's probably one of the most fundamental ways of which people can participate in a political process and can have some effect on our life outcomes,” said Crittenden County NAACP President Shabaka Afrika.
The Arkansas Democratic Party sent ABC24 News the following statement: “We are disappointed by the actions taken by Rep. Hallum. The sanctity of our elections and the rights of voters to see that every vote is counted fairly and responsibly are some of the basic, fundamental liberties of our democracy. No threat to those liberties can or should be endured. Hudson Hallum is taking responsibility for his actions and we hope that will help resolve things in a way to see that such activities will never be tolerated.”
The maximum penalty for the conspiracy charge is 5 years in prison plus a potential fine of $250,000.