State will seek to block Democratic legal move in White case

February 7, 2012

The Indiana attorney general's office says it will object to a legal move by Democrats to put their 2010 secretary of state candidate in office following Republican Secretary of State Charlie White's conviction on voter fraud charges.

The agency said late Monday it would seek an expedited review from the state Supreme Court.

The Indiana Democratic Party on Monday asked the state appeals court to order Democrat Vop Osili be declared secretary of state. Gov. Mitch Daniels already has named the office's top counsel as interim secretary of state.

A jury found White guilty early Saturday of six felony counts, forcing his removal from the politically powerful office. But White's lawyer wants to have the charges reduced to misdemeanors, which would allow White to return to office.

The Democrats' push to prevent Gov. Mitch Daniels from being able to appoint a fellow Republican to fill the office comes as White argued in a television interview after his conviction that Daniels has been voting illegally for years.

Democratic lawyers argued in court documents that White's crimes including lying about his address on voter registration forms, supporting their argument that White wasn't an eligible candidate for the office, which responsibilities includes oversight of elections.

Democrats asked the appeals court to enforce a Marion County judge's December decision in a civil case ordering the state recount commission to declare Osili as the election winner.

Republicans maintain Daniels should name a replacement if White is removed from office because of the Hamilton County convictions. Daniels said he was holding off on naming a permanent replacement because a judge could reduce the convictions to misdemeanor at White's Feb. 23 sentencing.

An appeals court spokesman said the court wasn't taking immediate action Monday on the Democrats' request.

Karen Celestino-Horseman, an attorney for the Democrats, said the courts have no reason to delay enforcement of the order that Osili be declared the election winner because of White's criminal conviction.

"This office could be bouncing around for a while, so if Vop goes into office and holds it under the election challenge then it doesn't matter what happens in the criminal case," she said.

White is expected to appeal the conviction on charges that he wrongly claimed to be living at his ex-wife's home in the Indianapolis suburb of Fishers while running for secretary of state. His defense attorney has said he will ask the judge to reduce the charges to misdemeanors because White has no criminal background and a long record of public service.

State Republican Party spokesman Pete Seat said were simply trying to overturn an election outcome that was upheld unanimously by the bipartisan state recount commission.

"Clearly they can't accept the verdict of Hoosiers who overwhelming selected the Republican nominee and they're trying to disenfranchise those hundreds of thousands of voters," Seat said.

White said in a television interview after his conviction that he didn't believe he was being treated fairly in the court system, arguing that Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels and Democratic former Sen. Evan Bayh had been casting ballots with voter registration addresses where they didn't live.

White, whom Daniels supported during his 2010 campaign, told Fox News Channel on Sunday that Daniels "has voted incorrectly, according to the standards put on me, the last 10 straight elections."

White maintained that Daniels was wrongly registered at the governor's residence on the north side of Indianapolis rather than at the home he and his wife have in the northern Indianapolis suburb of Carmel. "He votes down at the governor's mansion, where everyone knows that he does not live," White said.

Daniels spokeswoman Jane Jankowski said the governor's office was confident that he was following the law.

The Marion County prosecutor in October turned down White's request for an independent investigation of his vote fraud allegations against Bayh, saying White provided no evidence to conclude that Bayh and his wife have given up their Indianapolis residence despite continuing to live in Washington since Bayh's Senate term ended last year.

White didn't respond Monday to a request for comment from The Associated Press.

Indiana Democratic Party Chairman Dan Parker said he wasn't surprised that White was lashing out at others.

"This is a desperate person who was just convicted of fraud," Parker said. "I would say that Mitch Daniels' and Evan Bayh's cases are such that they've never hidden anything from the voters."


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