Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Charlie White's Residency Issue Not Going Away

As much as my fellow Republicans want the issue to fade away, the Democrats and the media aren't going to let Charlie White's residency issue simply die without getting the scrutiny it deserves. Democrats contend White committed an election law violation by knowingly misrepresenting his place of residency for purposes of casting a vote in this May's primary election. The Star's Mary Beth White has a follow up story today in which she quotes me:

. . . Charlie White voted in the May primary in a Fishers precinct where he no longer lived. He also didn't bother to inform any elections official at the polling place that he had moved.

That, Indiana Democratic Party Chairman Dan Parker said Tuesday, is voter fraud -- fighting words that spurred Democrats to insist on an investigation and accusations from Republicans that the whole affair is much political ado about nothing.

Parker called upon Secretary of State Todd Rokita, Hamilton County Prosecutor Sonia Leerkamp and Gov. Mitch Daniels -- all Republicans -- to investigate, and for Leerkamp to appoint a special prosecutor.

White -- who is running against Democrat Vop Osili and Libertarian Mike Wherry for secretary of state -- refused to answer questions on the matter Tuesday.

Instead, White's campaign issued a statement saying that "the simple fact is that Charlie was entitled under law to vote one last time at his old polling location."

Indiana law, though, isn't quite that simple.

Two provisions in Indiana code allow people who move to vote in their old precinct. One section applies only to people who move 30 days before the election. But White told The Star previously he moved in March, more than a month before he voted.

The other doesn't mention any time deadline but allows people who moved addresses but who are still in their same municipality and congressional district to vote if they correct the voter registration record at the polling place and make an affirmation, which must be put in writing by the voter or polling place clerk, of their new address.

White never did that.

White's campaign called that an "oversight that does not preclude his entitlement to vote" and said he'd cleared everything up when he changed his voter's registration last week.

Dave Brooks, the attorney for the Indiana Republican Party, said that "there's no question that the statute says you're supposed to fill out" a form if you are voting at the wrong precinct.

White, he said, "forgot to do that." But Brooks called that "an inconsequential error". . . .

Under Indiana law, it's a Class D felony -- punishable by up to three years in prison and a $10,000 fine -- for a person to knowingly vote in a precinct except the one in which he or she is both registered and resides.

But while some Republicans called White's actions an oversight, some Democrats charged that White knew exactly what he was doing -- and did it to keep his seat on the Fishers Town Council . . .

Brooks, though, said this is a minor incident that should not spur a criminal investigation.

"This kind of thing has got to happen innumerable times in every county, every election," Brooks said. "And it doesn't get criminalized because it's inconsequential. Every prosecutor in the state would have no time to prosecute real criminals if they wanted to go find some minor irregularity that really at the end of the day has no consequence, and start prosecuting it". . .

It isn't, though, just Democrats who find White's actions troubling.

Gary Welsh, a Republican attorney who publishes the political blog, said that White is both an attorney and Hamilton County Republican Party chairman who should know both election law and the Fishers district boundaries well enough to know if he is living in the district he represents.

"There seems to be a pattern of deception emerging here of an officer of the court who seeks the job of being the state's top elections administrator," Welsh wrote on his blog.

Welsh said he has worked the polls in elections, and regularly encounters voters who tell workers they have moved and seek help in correcting their address and registration.

"They want to make it correct. That bothers me that he didn't do it," Welsh said. "It's just not worth it."

I couldn't disagree more with Brooks on his argument that people vote in places they don't live all the time and White's doing so was an "inconsequential error." As an attorney and officer of the court, I find his dismissive attitude towards White's violation disturbing but not surprising. Every election I've worked in my precinct, we encounter voters who come into the polling place and announce they have moved to another residence and ask if they can vote at their old polling place. We ask them how long it has been since they moved. If it has been less than 30 days, we allow them to vote at their old polling place and have them fill out a change of residence form. If it has been more than 30 days, we try to determine the location of their new polling place to see if it is still in the city and within the same congressional district; if so, an affirmation of such change of address allows them to cast a vote at their old polling place one last time. If average citizens are honest enough to tell you about their change of address, you would think an officer of the court, a county chairman and candidate for the state's top elections official position, all of which White is, would be as well.

When I learned my City-County Councilor Patrice Abduallah had been residing all along outside our council district, I called him out on it in my blog. Abduallah resigned and we later learned Marion Co. Clerk Beth White had allowed Abduallah to run for re-election for his council district knowing that he didn't live in the district. Beth White simply dismissed his residency issue as one she was not obliged to raise as the county's chief elections administrator. I felt then and still feel to this day, she breached her duty not only as an officer of the court but as the chief election's administrator. Marion Co. GOP Chairman Tom John and David Brooks rejected my call for a criminal investigation of the matter. Adding further insult to injury, John and Brooks stood by as Democrats violated election law a second time by allowing Abduallah to be replaced on the ballot with Andre Carson despite the passage of the applicable deadline over my objections.

Yes, Charlie White likely committed a criminal law violation by representing he lived at an address at which he did not live. Yes, Abduallah committed a criminal law violation when he ran for a council seat and voted at a polling place at which he knew he did not live, not just in one election but in multiple elections. Beth White likely committed a criminal law violation by aiding and abetting Abduallah in perpetrating a fraud on the voters in his council district. This isn't a question of politics. This is a question of the rule of law. Republicans may not like the consequences of holding Charlie White accountable to the law, but that's the way the cookie crumbles. Too bad the Democrats weren't as concerned about the law in 2007, but shame on the Republicans for letting Abduallah and Beth White get by with breaking the law in 2007.

Matt Tully adds his thoughts to White's residency controversy today:

White's claim that he didn't realize his new home was outside his council district is hard to believe. I've never met a council member who couldn't tell you the exact boundaries of his or her district -- down to the streets. And we're talking about miles here, not a block or two. If White knew so little about his district, he was a negligent councilman.

Outgoing Republican Secretary of State Todd Rokita has made a career of lecturing about clean elections. If he doesn't agree to look into White's case, as Democrats have requested, he will look like he is taking care of one of his political buddies.

Democrats are within bounds to talk about this controversy. But if this is all they have to talk about five weeks before Election Day, that's a sign the party is in trouble.


Cato said...

Christ, if voting in in a "wrong" area makes me a felon, I'll just skip the process, altogether. I like to move periodically, and if I'm a felon for voting in my old polling place, it's safer just to skip the entire process.

There is a book called "Three Felonies a Day," by Harvey Silvergate essentially holding that everything we do can be construed as a felony. This country is out of control on its punishment obsession.

I know as Gospel truth that a lot of the Democratic base moves periodically and every election, many of these voters return to their former neighborhoods and votes at the place they know, though that might not be the correct polling place. So freaking what? So they voted in the Burton race instead of the Carson race, who cares? Because you move, you don't get to vote on Mitch? The Dems need to back off this. This odd complaint will whipsaw on their own constituency.


Mike Wherry is the Libertarian secretary of state candidate.

Every four years, the Libertarians have to achieve 2% of the vote in the Secretary of State race to keep ballot access in Indiana.

As an Independent voter, with no party loyalty, I plan to cast my vote his way. I think he's the best candidate and I think ensuring that the Libertarian Party has ballot access it vital to the future of Indiana's political process.

Advance Indiana said...

Cato, I think it is an entirely different matter when a public official is misrepresenting his voting address in order that he can continue receiving his salary and benefits as an elected official. That's why Abduallah's transgression was a serious matter, and that's why White's transgression is a serious matter. A typical voter is not gaining financially from voting in the wrong precinct; Abduallah and White were.


INDIANAPOLIS, IN (4/29/10) - The Libertarian Party of Indiana held its nomination convention this past Saturday, April 24, 2010. Mike Wherry, a resident of Greenfield, has received the Party’s nomination for Secretary of State. Wherry is a lawyer, former Naval officer, and mechanical engineer.

The Secretary of State race is a critical race for any political party, as the results determine ballot access status for the party. The Libertarian Party of Indiana is the third largest political party in the state and has had guaranteed ballot access since 1994 due to the performance of their candidates for Secretary of State. Sam Goldstein, Chairman of the Libertarian Party of Indiana said, “We nominated today a candidate for Secretary of State of Indiana that is a well-trained attorney with an aptitude for breaking down complex election codes and regulations, and then fixing them! I know he will do a wonderful job serving the citizens of Indiana.”

Wherry is a born Hoosier who received his degree in mechanical engineering from Rose-Hulman. He went on to serve in the Navy overseeing operations of the fast attack submarine, the U.S.S. Indianapolis. Upon completion of his law degree from Indiana University, Wherry spent several years helping small businesses and entrepreneurs protect their intellectual property by serving as a patent and trademark attorney.

As Secretary of State, Wherry will seek to streamline processes for prospective small business owners and serve as an independent officer over the Indiana Election Division. He will seek to use his office to influence the process of redrawing political districts in order to put an end to gerrymandering in Indiana.

Above all, Wherry seeks to provide a choice to Hoosier voters. The Libertarian Party serves as an alternate choice to the major political parties. This privilege is afforded to Hoosiers as a result of the Party’s past success in this race. Wherry wants to not only succeed in retaining ballot access for the Party, but also serve as a formidable opponent to the major parties in the race.

Wherry says, “This is an important race for the Libertarian Party and Indiana voters. I look forward to spreading the principles of the Libertarian Party – principles that are consistent with the beliefs of many Indiana voters.”


Cato said...

Nonetheless, Gary, a felony should be reserved for only capital crimes.

This business of making felonies out of administrative and financial matters has given us a country with the highest per capita incarceration rate on Earth.

Further, as the public acceptance of broad criminal laws festers, future generations will be raised with an awareness that so many matters are already criminal, that new levels of criminality will be even easier to enact. After all, the government isn't preaching the message that the laws are excessive and are undeserving of moral respect, quite the opposite.

When everyone is taught to "respect the law," and everything is criminal, one doesn't live in a free country.

Whatever the transgression here is, the criminal courts and felony courtrooms are not the proper remedy. Bar him from voting for an election, if you must do something.

Sadly, I'm preaching for governmental restraint on behalf of a Republican, the party that advocates making absolutely everything criminal and then creates legions of police to "enforce" the phony "laws."

foretell said...

Thank you Advance for your objective reporting on this issue.