. . . 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.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.
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 AdvanceIndiana.com, 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."
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.