Marion County panel's decision that U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar and his wife cannot legally vote using a former address likely would be easy to remedy.
But that fix -- perhaps by registering to vote using the Lugar family's Marion County farm, in which they share ownership -- might only give fire to tea party claims that Lugar has become an absentee senator. He's deep in a fight against a Republican primary challenger, Indiana Treasurer Richard Mourdock.
So Lugar plans to appeal a decision that his spokesman decried Thursday as a partisan attack by the Marion County Election Board's two Democratic members.
"The case that our legal team laid out today is pretty substantial," spokesman Andy Fisher said. "This was a political action by the Marion County Election Board and not a legal action."
The Election Board voted 2-1 to find that Lugar and his wife, Charlene, are ineligible to vote in their former home precinct on Indianapolis' Westside. The Lugars sold the house in the 3200 block of Highwoods Court in 1977, after his election to the Senate, and have lived ever since at a house in McLean, Va., a suburb of Washington, D.C.
They have returned to the Wayne Township precinct to vote and still use the home's address on their driver's licenses.
Lugar's attorneys cite a provision of the Indiana Constitution that says individuals serving the state retain their residency in a precinct during their absence from the state.
In a new affidavit filed before Thursday's hearing, Lugar said: "Our intent was and always has been to remain Indiana residents."The problem for the Lugars is that their subjective intent alone is not sufficient to make them Indiana residents. They need to couple that intent with acts in furtherance of it. All of the acts they have shown in furtherance of that intent rely upon a home in Wayne Township to which they have no nexus and Lugar's political influence in getting two Republican Attorney Generals to provide him favorable advisory opinions which don't even state the relevant facts they considered in rendering their opinions, including the fact that the Lugars had abandoned their former residence at 3200 Highwoods Court altogether. Lugar's attorneys believe he is entitled to vote at the former residence under a provision of the Indiana Constitution that protects persons absent from the state on business of the state or of the United States from losing their residence within the state. They contend the provision must be interpreted according to its plain meaning. In other words, they are arguing Lugar has been absent from the state for 35 years while serving as your U.S. Senator. Does that work for you? Even political supporters and friends of Lugar are totally bewildered by his stubborn refusal since this issue first came to light a little more than a year ago to re-register to vote at a place where he and his wife can at least receive mail without the post office returning it as undeliverable. The attacks against Marion Co. Clerk Beth White and Chairman Mark Sullivan that their decision is based purely on politics is beneath decency. White spoke of her admiration and respect for Lugar, and Sullivan noted that he had once attended a fundraiser for Lugar despite being a Democrat.
I encourage you to read the analysis and findings of the Board's attorney, Andrew J. Mallon, which you can view here, and judge for yourself. By dragging this issue into a court battle that will cost taxpayers money at a time we're told our city-county government is running a budget deficit of at least $50 million, Lugar is turning an already bad situation for him into a political nightmare. By way of disclosure, as Murray's story notes, I represented Wright before the election board yesterday. Neither Wright nor I were acting on behalf of Lugar's primary opponent, Richard Mourdock or his campaign. Sometimes, people just have to stand up for the rule of law. The Lugars aren't above the law. It's that simple. The Lugars can easily remedy this problem if they want to vote in Marion County, but instead, they've chosen to spend taxpayers' money for the right to be treated differently than all other similarly-situated citizens of this state. Nonetheless, the Star's editors demonstrate their continued contempt for ordinary citizens with its editorial today, which is noticeably at odds with the disdain and condemnation the editors had of Charlie White for having the audacity to register to vote at a residence where he actually received mail, slept at night and shared with his son:
But now comes the Marion County Election Board, which on a party-line vote Thursday ruled that Lugar and his wife are not eligible to vote here. Lugar's camp has promised to appeal that decision, and it likely will be overturned by higher, more sensible authorities.
In the interim, however, Lugar's political opponents on the left and right have succeeded in their true goal -- which is to embarrass an Indiana icon and one of the nation's last true statesmen to the point that it distracts voters from the truly substantive questions facing this nation.
Such is the state of politics in 2012. Instead of building a philosophical and intellectual case as to why Richard Mourdock is a superior candidate, the Republican primary challenger's campaign and his supporters have instead chosen to wallow in side issues such as the status of Lugar's residency.
Let's finally put that silliness to rest and instead debate the truly important issues facing this nation and state.Talk about journalistic dishonesty. And they wonder why people won't buy subscriptions to their newspaper any more. The editors of this newspaper won't even allow their reporters to report on how Lugar was caught red-handed by Greg Wright using his official Senate office as the registered address for his personal business, or how Lugar's wife avoided the consequences of her DUI conviction in Virginia because some "snafu" resulted in the conviction not being recorded on her Indiana driver record which lists Elizabeth Hughes' home as her residence. Unbelievable.