Chesterton Tribune

Judge rules White ineligible to serve; says Democrat can take office as Secretary of State

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By Lesley Weidenbener

Franklin College Statehouse Bureau

INDIANAPOLIS – A Marion Circuit Court judge has ruled that Secretary of State Charlie White, a Republican, was not eligible to be a candidate in last year’s election, and therefore his Democratic opponent, Vop Osili should be awarded the office.

Rosenburg said that White was not legally registered to vote at the time he filed his candidacy and therefore was ineligible to be on the ballot. “The fact that Mr. White knowingly registered in the wrong precinct is sufficient to render him ineligible for the office of secretary of state,” the ruling said. “Whether or not he believed that his registration complied with the law is not relevant.”

The ruling by Judge Louis Rosenburg overturns a decision by the Indiana Recount Commission but its not clear how soon – or even if – it will be implemented. The Indiana Recount Commission, which is a part of the secretary of state’s office, will appeal the ruling and seek an immediate stay, which would delay implementation of the order, said A.J. Feeney-Ruiz, a spokesman in the office.

He said recount commission officials were set to discuss the issue with the attorney general, which has so far not been involved in the case. Rosenburg sent the decision back to the recount commission for action. But Feeney-Ruiz said that even if a stay is not granted, a meeting could not take place before later next week.

That’s because the commission must give 48 hours notice of any meeting and the state is officially closed for the holidays through Monday. Also, the commission is not a standing group and its members are appointed only when it’s called to action. The state Republican and Democratic parties as well as the secretary of state make appointments to the three-member commission.

The Marion County ruling is the latest twist in a complex political and legal battle that has been brewing since last year, when Democrats first challenged White’s eligibility.

Democrats accused White of failing to live in the home that he listed as his residence for voting. The recount commission ruled unanimously then that White was eligible and Democrats appealed to the Marion Circuit Court. Meanwhile, White is facing felony voter fraud charges and Republican leaders – including Gov. Mitch Daniels – have urged him to step aside during the legal battle.

“More than a year later, justice has finally been served,” Indiana Democratic Chairman Dan Parker said in a statement Thursday. “We applaud this ruling and congratulate Vop Osili as the rightful winner of the 2010 election."

“As a result of his vote fraud, Charlie White was never eligible to be a candidate for this office, and he’s done nothing but embarrass Hoosiers since wrongfully assuming the position,” Parker said.

Despite the legal issues, White defeated Osili at the polls by about 345,000 votes. Osili recently was elected to a position on the Indianapolis City-County Council.

Neither White nor anyone from his campaign planned to comment on the ruling, Feeney-Ruiz said.