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Indiana Senate OKs bill to let Daniels name secretary of state

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Republican-controlled Indiana Senate approved a change Monday that would allow GOP Gov. Mitch Daniels to appoint a new secretary of state if indicted Republican Charlie White is found to be ineligible — a move Democrats called a blatant power grab that changes the rules in the middle of the game.

Democrats are challenging the eligibility of White, who has been indicted on seven felony counts, including voter fraud. Current state law would make the runner up the winner, meaning Democrat Vop Osili would take office if the Indiana Recount Commission finds White ineligible.

Indiana Democratic Party Chairman Dan Parker said in a statement that the amendment approved Monday was “unconscionable.”

“What’s the point of having a process for this kind of situation if Republicans are just going to change the rules when their people get caught?” Parker asked.

Under the amended bill — which could be up for a full Senate vote as early as Tuesday — the governor would choose a new elections chief, along with certain other state offices, if the winner is found to be ineligible.

The proposal’s sponsor, Republican Sen. Mike Young of Indianapolis, said the change was spurred by White’s case, but he said it wasn’t an attempt to keep Republican control of the office. He said by the time the White case is resolved, the governor’s office could be filled by a Democrat. The important thing, he said, was to have an elected official — not the non-elected Indiana Recount Commission — determine who fills the seat. “We want to make sure somebody who’s elected has to face the voters on this,” he said.

Sen. Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, said the amendment was meant to protect political control of the office. “If the intent was truly to improve the process, then this would have been handled earlier,” Lanane said. “It is not being done in the interest of voters or the process, but in the interest of Charlie White and the Republican Party’s control of that office. Apparently it’s all about politics.”

The Senate voted 35-13 for the amendment along a mostly party line basis. Sen. Sue Glick, R-LaGrange, voted against it, saying she agrees with the concept behind the amendment but disagrees with the timing. “I just don’t like the idea that right now because of Charlie White and this particular incident, it’s suddenly become an urgent situation. We all know what it’s about.”

The votes cast for secretary of state in Indiana are used to determine ballot access for parties. Young’s amendment also clarifies that Republicans would keep their party status, saying a secretary of state’s ineligibility wouldn’t affect the votes for purposes of determining ballot access and other issues.

White faces both the Democratic challenge before the Indiana Recount Commission and criminal charges. The allegation at the core of both is the same: that White committed fraud and was ineligible to run for secretary of state because he used his ex-wife’s address as his own on a voter registration form. White has previously acknowledged the voting error, chalking it up to his busy schedule and new marriage.



Posted 4/19/2011




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