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Supreme Court rejects Democrats' election-chief challenge

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The Indiana Supreme Court delivered a victory to Republicans on Thursday, ruling that Democrats waited too long to challenge the 2010 candidacy of the state's former elections chief. The decision cleared the way for Gov. Mitch Daniels to choose a replacement.

In a unanimous decision, the court overturned a Marion County judge's decision ordering the state recount commission to certify the runner-up, Democrat Vop Osili, as Indiana's secretary of state. Republican Charlie White, who won the race, was removed from office after he was convicted of felony voter fraud and perjury charges last month.

The ruling clears the way for Daniels to appoint White's replacement to the politically powerful office. Daniels, in a statement, said he would act promptly to fill the post. He named White's chief deputy, Jerry Bonnet, interim secretary of state after White's February conviction.

"The Supreme Court's resolution of this case brings finality to a difficult matter with many troublesome aspects. This ends a sad, sad chapter and I look forward to working with the new officeholder in restoring the public's confidence in the Office of Secretary of State," Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller said in a statement. Zoeller's office represented the recount commission in the case.

White was convicted of listing his ex-wife's address instead of his own when he registered to vote in the May 2010 primary. Democrats said he did this because he didn't want to give up his Fishers Town Council salary, which he would have had to do because he had moved out of the district he was elected to represent. White was sentenced Feb. 23 to one year of home detention.

In a separate challenge before the recount commission and later a civil court, Democrats argued that White's candidacy was invalid because he was improperly registered to vote. They said his recent conviction on six felony charges proved their point.

But the justices said White was properly registered by the time the challenge was filed after the election, and that the two cases had nothing to do with each other. The issue of White's voter registration address was raised before the election by a private citizen, and there was no reason the Democrats couldn't also have raised the issue before voters went to the polls, Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard wrote in the 14-page opinion.

"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." Shepard wrote.

The court said voters likely were aware of the concerns over White's voter registration at the time of the election, and it would not set aside their will. White won by about 300,000 votes.

"This court has always been wary of overturning the will of the voters who have freely and willingly cast their ballots," the ruling said. Three of the justices were appointed by Republican governors, and two by Democrats.

State Chairman Dan Parker said Democrats were disappointed by the ruling and still believed White's candidacy was illegitimate.

"It's unfortunate that instead of having someone in that office who stood before Indiana voters for an election, Hoosiers are going to have a Secretary of State appointed by Gov. Mitch Daniels," Parker said in a statement.

"We hope that person respects the integrity of the office and the elections process and will work with both parties to make sure that every Hoosier with the ability to vote can do so in a fair and open manner," he added.

Osili told The Associated Press that he hoped that whoever was appointed secretary of state would work with officials to make it easier for voters to comply with Indiana's voter ID law.

"The most important thing is that whoever is appointed to fill that slot has his or her highest priority to make sure that anyone who is legally able to vote in Indiana is able to vote," Osili said. "Nothing should be easier than being able to vote."

Indiana Republican Party State Chairman Eric Holcomb expressed relief in a statement and praised the court's decision.

"I commend the Indiana Supreme Court for its well thought out and considered decision in this matter. It is a far cry from the judicial activism used to try and overturn an election at the behest of Chairman Dan Parker and the Indiana Democratic Party," Holcomb said.

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  • To stupid for words?
    The pancake reference leads me to wonder whether the writer is referring to the story of "Little Black Sambo". Is this a Moron's expression of joy that we don't have a Black Secretary of State as a result of the Supreme Court's decision? I hope not.
  • White
    Well, I guess someone just got "vopped". Hope he doesn't let them crocodile tears hit his pancakes!

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    1. So much for Eric Holder's conversation about race. If white people have got something to say, they get sued over it. Bottom line: white people have un-freer speech than others as a consequence of the misnamed "Civil rights laws."

    2. I agree, having seen three shows, that I was less than wowed. Disappointing!!

    3. Start drilling, start fracking, and start using our own energy. Other states have enriched their citizens and nearly elminated unemployment by using these resources that are on private land. If you are against the 'low prices' of discount stores, the best way to allow shoppers more choice is to empower them with better earnings. NOT through manipulated gov mandated min wage hikes, but better jobs and higher competitive pay. This would be direct result of using our own energy resources, yet Obama knows that Americans who arent dependent of gov welfare are much less likely to vote Dem, so he looks for ways to ensure America's decline and keep its citizens dependent of gov.

    4. Say It Loud, I'm Black and Ashamed: It's too bad that with certain "black" entertainment events, it seems violence and thuggery follows and the collateral damage that it leaves behinds continues to be a strain on the city in terms of people getting hurt, killed or becoming victims of crimes and/or stretching city resources. I remember shopping in the Meadows area years ago until violence and crime ended make most of the business pack you and leave as did with Lafayette Square and Washington Square. Over the past 10 to 12 years, I remember going to the Indiana Black Expo Soul Picnic in Washington Park. Violence, gang fights and homicides ended that. My great grandmother still bears the scares on her leg from when she was trampled by a group of thugs running from gun fire from a rival gang. With hundreds of police offices downtown still multiple shootings, people getting shot downtown during Black Expo. A number of people getting shots or murdered at black clubs around the city like Club Six on the west side, The Industry downtown, Jamal Tinsley's shot out in front of the Conrad, multiple fights and shootings at the skating rinks, shootings at Circle Center Mall and shooting and robberies and car jackings at Lafayette Mall. Shootings and gang violence and the State Fair. I can go on and on and on. Now Broad Ripple. (Shaking head side to side) Say It Loud, I'm Black and I'm Ashamed.

    5. Ballard Administration. Too funny. This is the least fiscally responsive administration I have ever seen. One thing this article failed to mention, is that the Hoosier State line delivers rail cars to the Amtrak Beech Grove maintenance facility for refurbishment. That's an economic development issue. And the jobs there are high-paying. That alone is worth the City's investment.

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