Friday, May 20, 2011

Supreme Court Denies White's Request To Halt Recount Commission Proceeding

A Recount Commission hearing on the Indiana Democratic Party's petition challenging the eligibility of Secretary of State Charlie White will proceed after the Indiana Supreme Court assumed jurisdiction of an appeal of Marion Co. Circuit Court Judge Louis Rosenberg's order directing the Commission to hear the petition and denied a motion by White and the Commission to stay the proceedings in an order released by the Supreme Court today. The Court reasoned that a "final order" has not been made in the matter to make it ripe for appeal. You can read the order here.

Today's ruling is a big blow to White, who had sought to stay the proceedings until his criminal case has been resolved. White's attorneys are concerned about him being required to provide potentially incriminating testimony in the Commission proceeding that will touch on the same matters pending in a criminal proceeding against him. Although the Commission is Republican-controlled, they are put in an untenable position of adhering to an interpretation of the statutory eligibility requirements made by Judge Rosenberg at odds with its own interpretation of the statutory requirements. Judge Rosenberg agreed with Democrats that the statute not only requires a person to be registered to vote in order to be a candidate for Secretary of State, but also to be legally registered to vote in the correct precinct. Democrats contend White voted in a precinct in which he no longer resided prior to being nominated by the Republican Party at last year's state convention.

The law is being interpreted as a hammer against White, while a decision back in the 1980s liberally interpreted Indiana's election law to allow Evan Bayh to vote in Indiana and run for governor despite overwhelming evidence he had moved his residence to Washington, D.C., where he worked for a D.C. law firm, thereby failing to have maintained residence in the state for at least 5 years prior to running as required by the state's constitution. Bayh continued voting in Indiana during his absence from the state based on his intent to maintain his permanent residence here. Bayh, who like White served as the state's top elections officer as Secretary of State, never faced criminal charges for doing worse than what White has been accused of doing. Bayh even took a deduction on his tax return for his move to Washington. Republicans contested his eligibility to run in two separate proceedings before the state's Recount Commission and a circuit court judge. The trial court found in Bayh's favor, and the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's ruling that Bayh was eligible to run for governor.

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