Throughout this entire Jack Crumbly-Keith Ingram kerfluffle is the massive amount of irony in Crumbly’s asking the courts to jump into the election. After all, it was but six years ago that Crumbly basically stole the election and got that Senate seat, and his attorney defended his “election” by arguing that only the Senate — and not the courts — could decide who was rightfully a member.
The backstory here is totally worth recounting. In 2006, three men ran for District 16, and it was crumbly and State Representative Arnell Willis who made the run-off. In that run-off election, Crumbly won by a scant 78 votes, but there were literally hundreds of ballots cast in St. Francis County (Crumbly’s home) that were cast illegally. When Willis challenged the vote, Judge L.T. Simes of Marianna dismissed the suit. The Arkansas Supreme Court overturned the dismissal and rules that Simes had to at least hold a hearing and rule on the merits of Willis’ suit. Furthermore, because Crumbly (and Simes) had concluded that there was no way to determine who an illegal vote was cast for, the Supreme Court stated:
In short, while Amendment 81 protects the secrecy of ballots, its intent is to protect an honest voter, not an illegal one. As a result, this court is convinced that in election contests, where there is evidence of an illegal ballot, the person who illegally voted can be forced to testify as to whom they voted, and such is permissible under Amendment 81. We reverse and remand this case for further proceedings in accordance with this opinion.
Furthermore, the late (and awesome) Associate Justice Tom Glaze wrote that, due to Simes’ apparently reluctance to address the issues in the case, a new judge should be appointed. Unfortunately, the remainder of the court did not agree. Nevertheless, Simes actually did step aside in this case. Not because he didn’t want to remain on Crumbly’s case, but because he was ultimately suspended for unethical behavior in other matters. John Lineberger, a retired judge from Rogers, was appointed to the case.
Just before trial was to start, Crumbly’s attorney offered a new argument. He contended that the courts could have nothing to do with election-fraud cases because the Constitution, as amended, gave the House and Senate the sole jurisdiction over determining who should be a member of their respective bodies. While that argument was completely absurd — the legislature had ceded such jurisdiction to the courts under Act 465 of 1969 — Judge Lineberger inexplicably agreed with it. Even more inexplicably, Willis’ attorney agreed with the outcome and did not bother to file an appeal.
The Arkansas Senate quickly made a show of their own “investigation” of the matter. (In case it wasn’t amazingly clear, I used the quotation marks in the previous sentence to demonstrate irony.) The Senate State Agencies Committee listened to testimony on the matter and voted 4-3 to keep Crumbly in his ill-gotten seat. Shortly thereafter, the full Senate voted 21-12 to keep Crumbly seated. Perhaps most disturbingly, even the majority of the State Agencies Committee noted that fraud and irregularities were rampant in the election and a “blatant and flagrant disregard for the democratic process” had occurred.
The committee also discovered a “chilling and alarming pattern of disregard for state election laws in a cavalier and irresponsible matter.” Yet, for whatever reason — read: because the Senate protects its own above all else — Crumbly was seated as a Senator, simply because there was “no evidence” that he, personally, had done anything wrong, and the committee could not figure out (because they did not try to figure out) what the “correct” vote totals should have been.
Once you think about how Crumbly got his seat, how can anyone respond with anything short of derisive laughter when you hear him complain that the apportionment committee didn’t ensure that he’d be re-elected? (In case it wasn’t amazingly clear by this point, I consider Jack Crumbly to be an interloper who managed to steal a Senate seat, and I have zero sympathy for him in the current matter. He’s a terrible person, and this outcome is hilariously perfect.)