Embattled Indiana Secretary of State Charlie White appealed a court ruling Thursday that sent a dispute about whether he committed voter fraud back to a state commission, with his attorney arguing that the board doesn't have the power to make such a decision.
His lawyer, Jim Bopp, also argued that a judge improperly directed the Indiana Recount Commission to consider issues that are already being decided in separate criminal case.
"That is asking the recount commission to make the same determination the criminal court is being asked to make," Bopp said.
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 argued that White wasn't legally registered to vote and shouldn't have been allowed to run for office in November. Democrats took the case to the commission, which dismissed the case in December.
Marion Circuit Judge Louis Rosenberg ruled earlier this month that the commission's December dismissal "was not in accordance with law." Rosenberg remanded the case to the commission for proceedings "to be conducted as expeditiously as possible."
But a new hearing before the commission is on hold, in part because the state Republican chairman has yet to appoint a new member to the board, Commission Director Brad Skolnik said. He also said the board was waiting to see if either side sought a stay during the appeal.
William Groth, an attorney for state Democratic Party Chairman Dan Parker, who filed the lawsuit challenging White's eligibility to run for office, said in a statement Thursday the state Republican chairman is "clearly stalling" making an appointment to the commission.
"He no doubt wants to buy time so the Republican-controlled legislature can enact special legislation which would change the rules and allow the Republican establishment to throw Secretary White under the bus before the Commission or the Circuit Court does," Groth said in his statement.
White has resisted calls from Gov. Mitch Daniels and others to step down, at least while the case against him is ongoing.
Indiana Democrats called attention to the address discrepancy after White voted in last May's Republican primary. They contend that 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 Democrat Vop 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 their challenge on Dec. 12, and Democrats appealed the decision in Marion Circuit Court. Democrats want their candidate declared the winner.
In the separate criminal case, 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.