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
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
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.