Friday, April 22, 2011

Indiana Supreme Court Reinstates Hammond GOP Mayoral Candidate Illegally Removed From Ballot By Democratic-Controlled Election Board

In an outrageous act of partisan over-reaching, the Democratic-controlled Lake County Elections Board earlier this year removed from the May primary ballot Republican mayoral candidate George Janiec, who narrowly lost to Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott (D) by 500 votes four years ago. Without citing any statute to support their decision, the elections board claimed Janiec could not seek a partisan office while serving as a trustee for Hammond's public school system. An appointee of Mayor McDermott, Dawn Tomich, filed the complaint against Janiec seeking his removal from the ballot. The Indiana Supreme Court issued an order to reinstate Janiec to the ballot only a day after the elections board filed its brief in the case on Janiec's petition for transfer after the election board's decision was unbelievably upheld by a Lake County Superior Court Judge Jesse Villalpando, a former Democratic legislator. The Court's unanimous opinion reads, in part:

The Board and Lake Superior Court held that Janiec’s candidacy was inconsistent with the ethical policies applicable to members of the Hammond School Board. The Court finds no basis in statute or law for disqualifying Janiec on this basis. See Burke v. Bennett, 907 N.E.2d 529, 532 (Ind. 2009) (disqualification statute to be construed “consistent with the longstanding respect for the right of the people to free and equal elections”). Accordingly, the Court hereby GRANTS the Verified Petition for Emergency Transfer and REVERSES the Lake Superior Court’s “Judgment Order” issued on March 30, 2011. The Board and its members are ENJOINED from removing Janiec’s name from the ballot as a Republican candidate for Mayor of Hammond in the May 2011 primary election.
The May decision comes with a little more than two weeks left before the primary election. More than 3,200 absentee votes have already been cast, which cannot be undone according to the Court's order. The parties were ordered by the Court to come up with a mechanism to allow persons who have received absentee ballots but have not yet returned them, or who will be casting early votes in person at satellite voting sites, to cast a vote for Janiec no later than Monday. There were already five other candidates on the ballot in the Republican mayor's race. Mayor McDermott incredulously blamed Janiec for the ordeal he has endured at the hand of his political operatives according to the Northwest Indiana Times:

McDermott said Janiec showed a lack of respect for his opponents by glossing over the Republican primary and saying he would square off against him in November.

"Right now he's running against field of Republicans that want to beat him," McDermott said. "He obviously has no respect whatsoever for his opponents. That's not a good way to approach politics. You always respect your opponents, regardless of whether you think you can beat them or not."
The Lake County Election Board's actions were bad enough, but it is inexcusable for Judge Villalpando to uphold their actions knowing that there was absolutely no basis in law for removing Janiec from the ballot. Thankfully, the Supreme Court acted quickly enough to provide at least the possibility of Janiec winning the Republican nomination, who Mayor McDermott concedes is his strongest potential opponent for the November general election.

It's noteworthy that the Supreme Court cited the Burke v. Bennett decision in support of its construction of the disqualification statute as "consistent with the longstanding respect for the right of the people to free and equal elections." Secretary of State Charlie White's attorney, James Bopp, is relying on that decision in support of his contention that the Recount Commission could not disqualify him on the basis of an alleged criminal violation for which he had not been found guilty prior to the election contest petition being filed by the Indiana Democratic Party. Although Democrats knew of the alleged violation prior to the election, they waited until after the election to contest his eligibility to hold the office. Bopp's attorneys maintain the remedy post-election is removal through conviction for committing a felony. They are appealing an order by Marion Co. Circuit Court Judge Louis Rosenberg for the Recount Commission to hear the Democrat's petition, which it dismissed last December. If the Recount Commission ruled in favor of the Democrats, their candidate, Vop Osili, would assume the office even though voters overwhelmingly chose White over him. Republican-sponsored legislation is making its way through the legislature in its closing days that would allow Gov. Daniels to name White's successor if the Commission disqualifies him.


Jon E. Easter said...

"In an outrageous act of partisan over-reaching," is a quote that could describe not only this instance, but it could describe almost everything that's happened this year in the Indiana General Assembly.

Indy4u2c said...

"Corruption is as corruption does."

--The Democrat Machine