Chesterton Tribune

Indiana panel clears Secretary of State of wrongdoing in voter registration probe

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CHARLES WILSON,

Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Indiana Recount Commission cleared Republican Secretary of State Charlie White of political wrongdoing Tuesday, but scolded him for coming too close to the line.

The panel of two Republicans and one Democrat voted unanimously that White had been eligible to run for office in 2010, rebuffing a Democratic challenge to his candidacy based on the allegation that he had illegally registered to vote at his ex-wife’s address when he also had a condo with his then-fiancée.

Democrats said they would review the finding and decide whether to file an appeal.

White still faces a criminal trial in August on voter fraud charges and perjury. A conviction on any of the seven counts against him would be enough to oust him from office and could put him in jail.

Commission members said they wrestled with the legal question of intent, and concluded that the Democrats couldn’t disprove White’s claim that he had stayed at his ex-wife’s house but intended to move into the condo after he got married — which he did.

But Commission Chairman Thomas Wheeler scolded White for skirting the edge of the law.

“I think you were treading on the line,” Wheeler told White at the end of the two-hour hearing.

Testifying before the commission last week, White said his voter registration troubles were a mistake stemming from a complicated personal life in which he was trying to help raise his 10-year-old son, plan his second marriage and campaign for the state’s top elections job.

Wheeler and Democratic commissioner Bernard Pylitt said the case showed that Indiana campaign laws hadn’t kept pace with modern life and should take into account the sometimes fluid living arrangements of the modern family.

"The problem is these laws are antiquated ... they don’t reflect our current society,” Wheeler said.

White agreed at an impromptu news conference in his office after the hearing.

“We have a lot of statutes that do not reflect how our society is today,” he said. “I think there’s a lot of room for legislative change ... because the world as it is today ... is not the world it was two decades ago when it comes to people who are blending their families and putting their children first.”

White said he was relieved by the commission’s vote but declined to respond to Wheeler’s scolding.

The state Democratic Party chairman made it clear he disagrees with the commission’s decision.

“I believe that from a layman’s perspective, not a lawyer’ his ex-wife’s house was a hotel and he checked in there a couple of nights a week. So what this commission is saying is that you can register to vote at a temporary location if you’re sleeping there a couple of nights a week,” Dan Parker said. “So watch out for all these people who are going to register at a Holiday Inn Express.”

Parker said it was clear that White intended to live in the condo but registered to vote at his ex-wife’s address so he could keep his seat on the Fishers Town Council.

The state Democratic Party had wanted the Recount Commission to find that White should be replaced by Democrat Vop Osili, whom White defeated by a large margin last November.

Posted 6/28/2011

 

 

 

 

 

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