The Indiana Supreme Court has held that Charlie White was eligible to assume the office of secretary of state after being elected to that post in the 2010 general election. The justices point out the average voter was aware of concerns surrounding White’s voter registration history and they will not, on the basis of the petition before them, “judicially disenfranchise voters who went to the polls.”
A 20-page opinion released Thursday morning reverses a Dec. 22 decision by Marion Circuit Judge Lou Rosenberg, which found that Charlie White was not eligible to take office following the November 2010 election because he had improperly registered to vote at an address where he was not living. The Indiana Democratic Party challenged his eligibility after the election, and the Indiana Recount Commission decided White could hold the office. But Rosenberg disagreed and ruled the second-highest vote getter should take the office. The state’s justices accepted transfer on the issue.
Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard wrote the opinion in Charlie White, et. al. v. Indiana Democratic Party, through its Chairman , Daniel J. Parker, No. 49S00-1202-MI-73, finding the state Democratic Party’s post-election challenge was untimely and it should have challenged the voter registration matter before the election.
“Our conclusion is that the Code places a burden on political campaigns to investigate and vet their opposition before the pre-election time limitations expire, but that is better than the alternative: that a challenger might ignore a known (or knowable) disqualification challenge before the election, wait to see who won at the polls, and then seek to set aside the results of the democratic process. Such a result is inconsistent with free elections and respect for voters’ expressed preferences.”
Justice Brent Dickson concurred in result, but wrote separately to say that he agreed with the election contest being dismissed because he sees the Legislature’s attempt to impose additional eligibility qualifications on candidates as unconstitutional and not a basis to contest someone’s eligibility for office.
This appeal doesn’t involve any aspect of a separate criminal case against White, which led to his convictions on voter fraud in February, a one-year sentence of home detention, and his removal from office.