A lawsuit was filed today to force Democratic Lt. Gov. candidate Bill Halter off the ballot. It claims he doesn’t meet the state Constitution’s seven-year residency requirement.

John Mark Clement of Bismarck named Halter, along with election officials in a suit filed in Pulaski County Circuit Court.

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The suit contends Halter has lived outside Arkansas for more than 20 years. Halter has answered this previously by saying he has maintained legal residency in Arkansas for the required seven years by maintaiing his voter registration here. He worked a number of years in Washington as a member of the Clinton administration.

Clement is represented by attorney Joe Woodson Jr. of the Little Rock firm Whetstone and Spears. Judge Mary McGowan was assigned the case. Because the court requests an order compelling election officials to remove Halter from the ballot or not count his votes, a hearing is required in two to seven days.

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Don Spears of the law firm said in response to a question that members of his firm were split on the primary race, should you be looking for any partisanship in the filing. He raises an interesting point: “We don’t want a state office of this magnitude to go by default.” That is, what if Halter were to win the primary and a residency challenge filed later with only a Republican as the alternative candidate should a challenge be successful? “We don’t want people wasting their votes,” Spears said. “This issue should have been cleared up long ago.”

UPDATE: The Halter response is that (this is my characterization, not their words)  this is a desperate ploy by the Hathorn campaign. Noted: The Whetsone Spears firm has made a $1,000 contribution to Hathorn. Full news release from Halter camp on the jump.

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UPDATE II: From the Hathorn campaign, a we-don’t-know-nothing response, also on the jump.