Leader Blues

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

TOP STORY > >Experienced lawmakers know right from wrong

Sen. Jack Crumbly of eastern Arkansas can keep his seat despite “flagrant fraud” that helped him get elected, but two veteran senators are outraged that their colleagues voted last week to let him stay in the Senate.

“I thought he got there in a fraudulent manner and he shouldn’t be there,” Sen. John Paul Capps, D-Searcy, told us Monday.

“This was not a free election. It smelled. I thought he would resign.”

Capps thinks the Senate should have called for another election with outside supervision to make sure the vote was honest.

“The corruption and voter fraud was almost unbelievable,” Capps told us.

“If we can’t have fair elections, what have we got?” he asked. “I felt sorry for the good people of St. Francis County.

Bobby Glover, D-Carlisle, also said the election was “crooked” and Crumbly should have been expelled.

“It’s very clear to me that the election was perhaps one of the most corrupt in the state of Arkansas,” he told reporters after the Senate voted 19-12 not to expel Crumbly.

“I think there’s always going to be a cloud there over him,” Glover said. What’s more, he added, “I think there will always be a cloud over the Senate because of the actions that were taken here today.”

Unlike these veteran legislators, a lot of younger senators didn’t seem too upset about the ballot stuffing that got Crumbly re-elected. It makes you wish we had more experienced lawmakers like Glover and Capps, but because of term limits, they’ll be gone at the end of 2010.

Arkansas will miss their legislative expertise. Capps served 36 years in the House, while Glover was there for 20 years. They’ll both serve eight years in the Senate when their terms expire. I guess the Crumblys and their allies will remain in charge.

But Glover and Capps know exactly what was going on in St. Francis County a couple of years ago, when the disputed primary took place: Old-fashioned vote stealing right out of the Lyndon Johnson playbook, which calls for stealing just enough votes to have yourself declared the winner during the recount.

Crumbly, of Widener, supposedly defeated Rep. Arnell Willis in the 2006 Democratic primary by 68 votes. Although Willis was initially declared the winner, Crumbly claimed victory after a recount.

There was voter fraud everywhere: Crumbly’s campaign manager was a St. Francis County election commissioner who rigged the outcome with newly found absentee ballots, phantom votes, forged signatures, missing ballot stubs — you name it, this vote would have made a Chicago alderman call for honest government.

Glover said there was a “blatant and proven disregard of election laws,” including:

Allowing unregistered voters to cast ballots.

A paid Crumbly campaign worker, nicknamed the Queen of Absentee Ballots, admitted handling between 250 and 275 ballots, when the law allows her to handle no more than two.

Ninety-nine early voting ballots were missing.

511 early voting stubs were missing.

Seventy-two stubs for early voting were found out of sequence banded together in a stub box.

There were 97 more absentee stubs than ballots and two were not counted.

There’s more, but you get the idea.

A special prosecutor is looking into the case, and the U.S. attorney’s office will also probably investigate the allegations of fraud.

Don’t be surprised if some of the characters involved in the shenanigans are indicted.

But Sen. Shane Broadway, D-Bryant, who voted to let Crumbly stay in the Senate, doesn’t think the decision has hurt the Senate’s image.

“I think the credibility of the Senate has been enhanced by the whole way this situation was handled,” Broadway foolishly told reporters. “I think it’s been handled with dignity and it’s been handled with class.”

There’s nothing dignified or classy about fraud at the polls. Here you have the difference between a young legislator who can’t tell right from wrong, and two old-time lawmakers who know that the voters of St. Francis County have been cheated.

But Glover and Capps won’t be around in a couple of years to provide leadership in the Senate, although the Crumblys and Broadways will stick around and embarrass the Senate a while longer.
It won’t be soon enough when they, too, are term-limited. They can take their dignity and class with them.