On the eve of a hearing before the U.S. Supreme Court, the Indiana Voter ID law has become a story with a twist: One of the individuals used by opponents to the law as an example of how the law hurts older Hoosiers is registered to vote in two states.
Faye Buis-Ewing, 72, who has been telling the media she is a 50-year resident of Indiana, at one point in the past few years alsoclaimed two states as her primary residence and received a homestead exemption on her property taxes in both states.
Monday night from her Florida home, Ewing said she and her husband Kenneth “winter in Florida and summer in Indiana.” She admitted to registering to vote in both states, but stressed that she¹s never voted in Florida. She also has a Florida driver’s license, but when she tried to use it as her photo ID in the Indiana elections in November 2006, poll workers wouldn’t accept it.
Subsequently, Ewing became a sort-of poster child for the opposition when the Indiana League of Women Voters (ILWV) told media that the problems Ewing had voting that day shows why the high court should strike it down.
But Indiana Republican Secretary of State Todd Rokita said Monday that Ewing’s tale illustrates exactly why Indiana needs the law. “This shows that the Indiana ID law worked here, which also calls into question why the critics are so vehemently against this law, especially with persons like this, who may not have a legal right to vote in this election,” Rokita said . . .
According to Ewing and Ann Nucatola, public information director for the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, Ewing surrendered her Indiana driver¹s license in 2000, when she moved to Florida and obtained her Florida license. Nucatola said that a driver must have a Florida address to obtain a Florida driver¹s license.
“And if they own property in two states they have to get a license that says ‘valid in Florida only,’” Nucatola said. Ewing said Monday that her license is a “regular” one that she uses in both states. She renewed it in 2007 on a Punta Gorda, Fla. address.
At the Charlotte County, Fla. voter registration office, Sandy Wharton, vote qualifying office manager, said Ewing registered to vote in Charlotte County on Sept. 18, 2002, and signed an oath that she was a Florida resident and understood that falsifying the voter application was a third-degree felony punishable by prison and a fine up to $5,000. Wharton said her office checked Ewing’s Florida residency and qualified her on Oct. 2, 2002. On Oct. 4, 2002, they mailed her Florida voter card to her, to the West Lafayette, Ind. address that Ewing gave as a mailing address.
However, Ewing didn’t vote in Florida that year, nor has she ever voted in Charlotte County, Wharton said. But, just a month after receiving her Florida voter card, she did vote in the November 2002 elections in Tippecanoe County, Ind., according to Heather Maddox, co-director of elections and registration in Tippecanoe.
Ewing confirmed that she is registered in both states to vote, but at first said the Florida registration came automatically with her driver’s license. She repeatedly denied signing the oath on the Florida application. She also said Indiana mailed her an absentee ballot, but she didn’t use it or vote that year.
However, Heather Maddox, co-director of election registration in Tippecanoe County, said Ewing voted in Indiana in 2002, 2003 and 2004, before the Indiana ID law took effect in 2005.
When informed that the Florida voter office said she’d registered personally in 2002 for a Florida voter card, and that this newspaper had a copy of her application, Ewing said, “Well, why did I do that? I'm confused. I can’t recall.” She reiterated that, even though she’s registered in two states, she only votes in Indiana, adding that she does have a car plated in Florida.
That doesn’t satisfy Florida officials. “She can only be registered to vote in the place where she claims residency, Wharton said. “You can’t be registered in two states. She has to claim one place or the other.”
Ordinarily when someone registers to vote in Florida, the state informs the election board where the applicant was previously registered. But according to Wharton, Ewing did not inform Florida that she was ever registered to vote anywhere else.
“She signed an oath saying she was a qualified elector and a legal resident of Florida,” Wharton said. “And the space where she was supposed to tell us where she was previously registered, she left blank.”
A check with Charlotte County, Fla.’s online property tax records shows that Ewing owns property there. One requirement in Florida to claim homestead is to show a valid voter ID or sign an affidavit of residency – which she did when she applied for her voter card there. She claimed a homestead exemption on the Florida property in 2003 – the same time she was claiming a homestead exemption on property she owned in Indiana, according to Tippecanoe deputy auditor Heather Satler. Satler said that Ewing’s Indiana exemption began in 1994 and ended in 2004, when the exemption was removed because the state discovered she wasn't living there.
Tuesday Ewing said the homestead “problem came up” when she married in 2002. “But that was taken care of,” she said. She also said her main residence is in Indiana, and that she pays “some” taxes in Indiana on a “small annuity” she receives.
“But I feel like I’m a victim here,” Ewing said. “I never intended to do anything wrong. I know a lot of people in Florida in this same situation – they call us ‘Snowbirds,’ you know.”
It's too bad this little gem didn't surface during Wednesday's oral argument in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. A big hat tip to Hoosier Pundit for catching this story.