By MARY SELL and TODD STACY, Alabama Daily News
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Freshman Alabama lawmaker Rep. David Cole, a Republican from Huntsville, has resigned following his arrest earlier this week on a felony voter fraud charge.
Cole’s residency had been in question since before the November election when he ran for the open House seat and had been the subject of both a party and court challenge.
He will plead guilty to a charge of voting in an unauthorized location, according to a plea agreement filed in state court.
Cole signed a lease in 2021 to pay $5 per month for a “5×5 space” in a home in order to run for office in House District 10. Cole had some mail sent there, but never lived there and never “stepped past the entry foyer” on the two times he visited the location, according to the plea agreement.
Cole gave a one-sentence resignation letter to Speaker of the House Nathaniel Ledbetter on Thursday.
“I regretfully must tender my resignation to serve as the district 10 representative for the Alabama House of Representatives, effective on the date of this memorandum,” Cole wrote.
His Tuesday arrest came after the Alabama Attorney General’s Office began investigating accusations that he did not live in the district he represents, as required by law.
Alabama law makes it a Class C felony to knowingly vote at a polling location where one has not been authorized to vote. Class C felonies are punishable by one to 10 years in prison and fines as high as $15,000.
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.
Cole’s departure from the State House means Gov. Kay Ivey will set a special election. The new representative won’t be seated until after the 2024 regular session has begun in early February.
The House District 10 race was one of the few competitive State House contests. Cole faced Democrat Marilyn Lands and Libertarian Elijah Boyd. Cole won with 51.6% of the votes. Lands received 45%.
In a statement released by his attorney, Cole admitted to wrongdoing.
“Dr. Cole admits and takes full responsibility for the mistakes he made in the political process,” reads the statement from attorney Bill Espy. “The Cole family appreciates the prayers and support from his friends and community during this time. Dr. Cole will continue to serve his community during this time.”
Ledbetter explained that candidates for the House qualify through their party, not the Legislature. He said that, while he was aware of questions about Cole’s residency, it wasn’t until after the Legislature adjourned in June that he received a copy of the deposition in Cole’s case.
“We were always mindful of it, knew it was there, if it ever came back we would see what we had to do,” Ledbetter said, adding that unseating a member requires a challenge from another member of the House during the Regular Session, which did not occur.
“From our standpoint, we just followed what the law said.”
Cole is a retired Army physician who served in Afghanistan and Iraq and is the medical director of Occupational Health Group in Huntsville. He previously told Alabama Daily News he ran on a platform of “table issues,” including improving schools and infrastructure.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.