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Judge orders Indiana recount chief into court

April 25, 2011

A judge Monday ordered the head of the Indiana Recount Commission to appear before him this week to explain why the panel has not moved more quickly in considering whether Republican Secretary of State Charlie White was a valid candidate when he won election last fall.

WISH-TV reported Marion Circuit Judge Louis Rosenberg issued an order Monday setting a Thursday hearing at which Recount Commission Director Brad Skolnik would to be asked to show why he should not be held in contempt for not investigating White's voter registration quickly, as the judge had ordered.

Rosenberg also ordered Indiana GOP Chairman Eric Holcomb to appoint a member to the recount commission to replace White within two days. He also ordered Holcomb to appear at the Thursday hearing.

White, Indiana's top elections official, is accused of committing voter fraud by listing his ex-wife's address as his own on a voter registration form. White has previously acknowledged the voting error, chalking it up to his busy schedule and new marriage. Democrats want him ruled ineligible to serve and the runner-up declared the winner.

Rosenberg's order came after Indiana Democrats asked Rosenberg earlier Monday to set a deadline for the recount panel to reconsider the validity of White's candidacy or appoint his own fact-finding commission to do so.

Attorneys for Indiana Democratic Chairman Dan Parker filed a motion saying the Recount Commission had not yet met to discuss White's candidacy despite Rosenberg's April 7 ruling ordering the panel to handle the issue "expeditiously."

"It is now nearly three weeks since this court ordered the commission to move expeditiously and offered the commission the opportunity to work to restore the credibility of the political system in the eyes of Indiana voters," the motion said.

Since the April 7 ruling, Parker has named a new Democratic member to the politically appointed panel and White has recused himself as required by state law. GOP Chairman Eric Holcomb has yet to appoint White's replacement.

White's attorney appealed the April 7 ruling last week in a move that Democratic attorneys described as a stalling tactic to gain time for legislators to change the law governing who would replace White if he were removed. Democrats say state law currently requires the runner-up, Democrat Vop Osili, to replace White, but a bill in the General Assembly would allow such vacancies to be filled by the governor.

The motion also asked Rosenberg to order a fact-finding commission to report by May 20.

White's attorney, Jim Bopp, says the case is now in the hands of the Indiana Court of Appeals.

"We've appealed the judge's ruling, and that means the ruling isn't going to be acted upon until the courts decide if his ruling is valid or not," Bopp said.

But Democratic attorney Bill Groth said state law allows the case to continue unless a stay is ordered by the trial court or the Court of Appeals. Groth also said Rosenberg's ruling was not a final order and thus not immediately appealable, and he intends to file documents to have the appeal set aside.

Indiana Democrats called attention to the address discrepancy after White voted in last May's Republican primary. They contend White intentionally skirted the law to keep his seat on the Fishers Town Council after moving out of the district he represented.

After the Nov. 2 election, in which White beat Osili by about 345,000 votes, Democrats filed a petition with the Indiana Recount Commission challenging White's eligibility. The panel voted 2-1 along party lines to dismiss the challenge on Dec. 12, and Democrats appealed the decision in Marion Circuit Court.

In a separate criminal case stemming from the same circumstances, White was indicted March 3 on seven felony counts including voter fraud and perjury by a grand jury in Hamilton County, just outside Indianapolis. If convicted of a felony, he would have to resign.

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