Hallum represented District 54, which has seen its share of controversy. He won his seat in 2011 during a special election after his predecessor, Fred Smith, resigned in the face of a theft by receiving conviction.
Now, Hallum has pleaded guilty to committing fraud to win that election.
In a nine-page indictment, the U.S. Attorney's Office details a scheme in which State Representative Hudson Hallum (D-Marion), his father and campaign finance manager Kent Hallum, West Memphis City Councilman Phillip Wayne Carter, and West Memphis Police Officer Sam Malone worked to bribe absentee voters.
The indictment covers activities in the special primary, runoff, and general election for the seat in 2011.
According to the indictment, the men identified and tracked absentee voters, often coordinating with the Crittenden County Clerk's Office to see when absentee ballots had been sent out. The men would then help fill out the ballots, bribe voters to mark Hallum's name, or fill out the ballots for Hallum, regardless of the voters' wishes.
Carter and Malone would often pick up the ballots in unsealed envelopes and deliver them to Kent and Hudson Hallum to verify the vote was for Hallum. If it wasn't, the ballot was destroyed, according to the indictment. If it was, the documents allege, the Hallums would then mail in the ballots to the clerk's office.
Among the bribes offered for votes, aside from cash, the indictment claims Hudson Hallum approved a $20 expenditure for "a family of eight who had requested a "family meal" in exchange for their votes."
Kent Hallum is accused of providing money to Carter and Malone so they could "buy a chicken dinner for an individual known to the Attorney for the United States in exchange for the absentee ballot votes of that individual and one other individual," according to the indictment.
Hudson Hallum, court documents say, suggested, "We need to use that black limo and buy a couple of cases of some cheap vodka and whiskey to get people to vote."
While Carter is quoted in the documents as saying, "Folks gonna vote for whoever pay them."
We attempted to contact all four men multiple times through the day. Our calls were not returned.
Candace Martin, spokesperson for the Democratic Party of Arkansas, issued the following statement regarding Hallum's plea.
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 sentence for the conspiracy to commit election fraud is five years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.
In a press release, U.S. Attorney Jane Duke said, "The most fundamental rights we enjoy as American citizens include the ability to vote, and, if we so choose, to run for elected office. In a nation in which every person's vote matters, protecting the integrity of the electoral process from those who seek to win office by cheating the system is critical. Voter fraud schemes such as that carried out in the 2011 District 54 race have the devastating effect of eroding public confidence in elected officials and disenfranchising voters."
According to that press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office, H.G. Foster, State Special Prosecuting Attorney, has been appointed to investigate additional fraud allegations related to the District 54 special election last year.
As for the election in November, Hallum's name will remain on the ballot against Green Party candidate Fred Smith (who previously held and resigned from the seat). If Hallum receives the majority of votes in the election, the position will be declared vacant, and a special election will be held.
If Fred Smith wins, there's no problem. Legal action could also take place to block the votes Hallum receives from counting.