A Marion County judge has ruled that Secretary of State Charlie White was ineligible to be a candidate and the office should go to Democrat Vop Osili, his challenger in the 2010 election.
The ruling, issued Wednesday by Marion Circuit Court Judge Louis Rosenberg, came in response to a civil lawsuit filed by Democrats that sought to have White declared ineligible for office because he allegedly committed voter fraud.
A Hamilton County grand jury indicted White on voter fraud and other charges in March. White, a Republican, has maintained his innocence and a trial is scheduled for September.
Indiana Democrats called for an investigation into White in September 2010 after discovering he voted in the Republican primary the prior spring while registered to vote at his ex-wife's house in Fishers.
“The fact that Mr. White knowingly registered in the wrong precinct is sufficient to render him ineligible for the office of Secretary of State,” Rosenberg wrote in the ruling. “Whether or not he believed that his registration complied with the law is not relevant.”
The Indiana Recount Commission, made up of two Republicans and one Democrat, voted unanimously in June to let White to keep his job. The Indiana Democratic Party appealed that decision and requested a Marion County judge rule on it. Rosenberg's ruling overturns the Commission’s decision.
The Commission, which is a part of the secretary of state’s office, will appeal the ruling and seek an immediate stay, which would delay implementation of the order, said A.J. Feeney-Ruiz, a spokesman in the office. He said recount commission officials were set to discuss the issue with the attorney general, which has so far not been involved in the case.
Rosenburg sent the decision back to the recount commission for action. But Feeney-Ruiz said that even if a stay is not granted, a meeting could not take place before later next week. That’s because the commission must give 48 hours notice of any meeting and the state is officially closed for the holidays through Monday.
Also, the commission is not a standing group and its members are appointed only when it’s called to action. The state Republican and Democratic parties as well as the secretary of state make appointments to the three-member commission.
White defeated Osili at the polls by about 345,000 votes. Osili was elected to the City-County Council in November and is expected to take office Jan. 1.