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Indiana judge stays order ousting secretary of state

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Charlie White can remain as Indiana's secretary of state until a higher court has reviewed a decision ousting him from office, a judge ruled Wednesday.

Marion Circuit Judge Louis Rosenberg stayed his initial ruling ordering the state recount commission to certify Democrat Vop Osili as the winner of the November 2010 election pending the review. Osili secured the second highest vote tally in the poll.

Rosenberg ordered the ouster of White, a Republican, Dec. 22 because of allegations that he had been improperly registered as a candidate when he ran for office.

White also faces a criminal trial Jan. 30 on voter fraud and other felony charges in connection with those allegations. White maintains his innocence.

During a hearing Tuesday, Democratic attorneys argued that staying the order created a risk that Osili could be deprived of the state office even if a higher court upholds Rosenberg's order, which White is appealing. If White is found guilty on the criminal charges, Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels would get to appoint a replacement secretary of state.

Democratic Attorney Karen Celestino-Horseman proposed that Rosenberg stay the order but also set the condition that Osili still would become secretary of state if White leaves office before a higher court rules on White's appeal.

Rosenberg rejected that option, saying it "unnecessarily injects the court into issues not before it."

"It's been clear from the start, the Indiana Democratic Party is fighting to extend this drama in hopes of overturning an election and effectively disenfranchising hundreds of thousands of Hoosiers," Indiana GOP Chairman Eric Holcomb said in a statement.

State Attorney General Greg Zoeller said he will appeal Rosenberg's December ruling on behalf of the recount commission.

A Hamilton County grand jury indicted White in March on seven felony counts alleging that he used his ex-wife's address on voter registration and other documents while he actually lived at a condo where he intended to live with his new wife, and that he collected his council salary after moving out of the district he represented.

White has said the allegations ignored a complicated personal life in which he was trying to raise his 10-year-old son, plan his second marriage and campaign for statewide office.

Hamilton Superior Court Judge Steven Nation last month rejected White's motion to dismiss the seven felony counts and ruled that his trial in Noblesville begin Jan. 30.

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