Friday, October 21, 2011

Show Us The Evidence And The Law, Mr. Curry

Taking a page out of the Indiana Democratic Party's playbook, Marion Co. Prosecutor Terry Curry yesterday attempted to raise suspicions about the actions of Secretary of State Charlie White in providing information about the voting registration history of former U.S. Sen. Evan Bayh and his wife, Susan, to him in a complaint. Curry stated in a  press release he issued to the media announcing that he would not pursue vote fraud allegations against the Bayhs that it "appears that Mr. White may have used his official position to access, gather, and disseminate otherwise confidential voter information attached to his complaint." Curry said he was forwarding White's complaint to the Marion Co. Election Board so it could investigate the matter further. He suggested he would consider further action against White if it determined White had broken the law. Curry's press release provided no specific information that White provided in his complaint that was "confidential voter information", and he provided no statute to support his claim. White's attorney, former Marion Co. Prosecutor Carl Brizzi, had the following response to Curry's allegation:

"Everything Charlie gave them was public information," he said. "In fact, it's the same kind of public information the Democrats used when they went after Charlie for vote fraud."
I have re-read White's complaint. There is no information contained in it that is not publicly accessible information. In fact, it contains the same information that election boards throughout the state furnish to the respective parties. A Republican county chairman has also confirmed that the information contained in White's complaint is the same information any Republican Party leader can access in the GOP Voter Vault database of registered voters (i.e., name, date of birth, address, voting history, including whether the person voted in the Republican or Democratic primary and whether they voted absentee). As Brizzi notes in his response to the allegation, it contained the same type of information Democratic attorney Greg Purvis gathered on Charlie White and disseminated to the media during last year's Secretary of State race in an effort to discredit him in his bid for that office against Democrat Vop Osili. If White somehow broke state law, then the Democrats similarly broke the law. The Democrats have often resorted to information contained in a person's voter registration records to use against them in a hotly-contested political race. Only four years ago, Democrats accessed Greg Ballard's voting records and took him to task for his failure to cast a vote in a number of elections. News reporters, too, often request and receive similar information during the course of their reporting in political campaigns.

I have e-mailed Curry's press secretary, Brienne Delaney, requesting specifics on Curry's allegations citing the statute White allegedly violated and the specific information he provided in his complaint that violated state confidentiality laws. The news media, which long ago tried and convicted Charlie White, recklessly repeated Curry's allegations without requesting any substantiation from him in a further effort to discredit White. Ms. Delaney responded yesterday that she had left the office and did not have that information but would provide it to me today. If she provides me specifics on White's allegation, I will print her response here.

Brizzi says White never expected Curry to investigate the allegations against the Bayhs despite the common knowledge that he and his family live in their multi-million dollar Washington home and have never spent a night in the $58,000 condominium on the city's north side he and his wife are claiming as their voting address and upon which they claim a homestead property tax exemption. Persons knowledgeable with the Bayhs' occasional visits to Indianapolis confirm they stay in hotels when visiting the state. "He (White) wanted to show the inconsistent application of the election law," said Brizzi, a former Marion County prosecutor. "He wanted to say, 'Look, this stuff happens and no one ever gets prosecuted.' "

Unlike the charges against Bayh, in White's case there is no evidence that he has lived anywhere as a registered voter except for Hamilton County, Indiana. His uncontested residence in this state made him eligible to serve as Indiana's Secretary of State. Democrats and the highly partisan special prosecutor, Dan Sigler, have twisted the law in White's case to suggest he was not a legally registered voter and thus ineligible to run for the office because he voted in one election at his ex-wife's house before changing the voting address to a condominium he had purchased to live in with his second wife. White moved into the condominium following his marriage and changed his voting address prior to the next election as required by law. Even many Democrats quietly concede that they are frightened by the unprecedented application of the law against White. "Many prominent Democrats and Republicans alike would have been convicted of felonies based on this interpretation of the law," one long-time Democratic activist told me. The Democratic Party's likely nominee for governor next year, John Gregg, told one source that he believes White is being unfairly singled out.

UPDATE: Here's the written response I received from Brienne Delaney in Curry's office:

In reference to your email, concerning the confidentiality of information contained in the documents provided to the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office by Charles White, the following code citations at a minimum would appear to apply:

IC 3-7-26.3-4(b) states that the Statewide Voter Registration List is to be used only for “voter registration and election administration and for no other purpose.”

IC 3-7-26.4-8(c) states that “The election division shall not provide information under this section concerning any of the following information concerning a voter:

- (1) Date of Birth
- (2) Gender
- (3) Telephone number or electronic mail address
- (4) Voting history
- (5) Voter identification number or another unique field established to identify a voter
- (6) Date of registration of the voter

These sections of the Indiana Code appear to apply to the documents Mr. White delivered to our office as attachments to his “complaint.” Among the documents delivered by him were seventeen un-redacted screen shots from the electronic Statewide Voter Registration System (SVRS) that show, in historic detail from 1986, all the information listed above about the Bayhs.
As you are aware, we have forwarded all information provided to MCPO to the Marion County Election Board, which in turn has the statutory authority to determine if there is substantial reason to believe an election law violation has occurred and, if so, to expeditiously make an investigation. Ind. Code 3-6-5-31.

The explanation offered by Curry's office for why it thinks White violated state law is based on an entirely faulty premise. It assumes the information he obtained came from the Indiana Elections Division office. White has said he did not get the information from the Elections Division, and he did not use any state employees of his office or the division to assist him in getting the information. Instead, he requested the information through a public records request he submitted to the Hamilton Co. voter registration office. The documents referenced as being attached to White's complaint were the documents the Hamilton Co. office furnished to him in response to his public records request. White does not believe the documents produced to him contained any information that the Hamilton Co. voter registration office was not allowed to release to him as a public record. Regardless, it is the public agency producing the documents responsibility to redact any information that is not to be disclosed to the public. White adds that he only furnished the documents attached to his complaint to Curry's office; he did not include them with copies of the complaint he distributed to the media. In addition, the statute referenced by Curry's office is only an admonition to the state's Election Division concerning information it shall not release to the public about a voter. As I've noted above, this sort of information is regularly requested and obtained by the media, candidates and members of the public during political campaigns. Both parties purchase the information in electronic format from the Elections Division periodically and the Republican Party has this information stored in its Voter Vault database to which a large number of party leaders are given access. It's quite clear that Curry's purpose in making the accusation against White was a shot from the hip intended to discredit him for raising the issue about the Bayhs continuing to vote in Marion County, notwithstanding the fact that they don't live here and are no longer conducting the people's business as a United States Senator while residing in Washington.


justvisiting said...

Is Brienne Delaney related to Ed Delaney?

Gary R. Welsh said...

I have no idea.