Seeing An Acorn But Missing The Oak Tree

When I read last week that the top election official in Indiana was indicted for voter fraud, I thought it would be big news. Indiana has the most restrictive voter access law in the country, and there must be majority interest in voter fraud, judging by the massive media promotion of the (later discredited) ACORN video.

So, I thought I’d wait for the national media firestorm to die down, and then we could separate truth from fiction. We’d view any video submitted by liberal activists and try to determine if it was edited or fictionalized, we’d look at the indictment and Indiana election law, etc.

But, there doesn’t seem to be any national media interest at all in this extraordinary story, so I’ll go ahead.

Indiana Secretary of State Charlie White was indicted Thursday on seven felony charges. A Hamilton County grand jury indicted White on three counts of voter fraud for allegedly lying about his address when he voted in last year’s Republican primary. He also faces charges of perjury and fraud on a financial institution – again, for lying about his address – as well as theft for continuing to collect his salary as a Fishers Town Council member after moving from his designated district.

The discrepancy that led to the one of the charges in the indictment was actually revealed well prior to White’s election. White admitted it to a reporter.

This is September 22, 2010:

Charlie White is no longer a member of the town council in Fishers. The Republican nominee for Secretary of State is disqualified because he moved into a townhouse outside his district. That happened in February. White revealed it yesterday. Today Democratic attorney Greg Purvis called on White to return his pay for the last seven months, more than $7,000, and he called for an investigation because White also failed to register to vote using the address of his new home. Instead he was registered to the home of his ex-wife. Purvis says it was an attempt to keep the council seat.

Reached by phone while campaigning in northern Indiana, White told 24 Hour News 8 “I made a couple silly mistakes. I’ll learn from it.” Meantime, he hopes to become the top election official in Indiana.

Democrats contested White’s election to the Indiana Recount Commission. Here’s a member of the Recount Commission who overrode the Democrat’s complaint on White, and allowed White to assume office.

Rokita served as the Chairman of the Indiana Recount Commission when Democrats first challenged White’s eligibility last year. At that time Rokita sided with White, voting with the other Republican on the 3-member Recount board, and overriding the administrative challenge 2-1.

“The Recount Commission is an administrative body and it’s not equipped, nor should it be, to deal with criminal charges,” Rokita said in response to his previous stance. “Charlie should at least step aside temporarily until these charges are ajudicated,” said White’s predecessor, Congressman Todd Rokita, who says White has lost credibility

Rokita is the former Indiana Secretary of State. He’s the person who pushed Indiana to adopt the most onerous and restrictive ID requirements in the country. Rokita testified before the US Congress on the solution in search of a problem that voter ID laws address, which is “voter impersonation fraud”. He’s now in the US Congress.

A special prosecutor was appointed prior to the election, but White remained on the ballot and White won the election.

What happens next matters, because if White resigns or is convicted of a felony, the question then becomes whether Mitch Daniels or the GOP majority in the state legislature appoint the next Secretary of State, or whether the next-highest vote-getter (the Democrat) takes the seat.

This is the Indiana Law Blog on the relevant difference between “ineligible” (next highest vote-getter gets seat) and a “vacancy” (Mitch Daniels appoints replacement):

IF White was fraudulently registered to vote at the wrong address, then:
(a) he was ineligible to be nominated by the GOP and
(b) ineligible to serve now that he’s been elected.
In that case, he would not be able to resign from office, leaving a vacancy for the Governor to fill — because he would never have assumed the office.

Whenever the commission makes a final determination under section 18 of this chapter that the candidate who is subject to a contest proceeding is not eligible to serve in the office to which the candidate is nominated or elected, the candidate who received the second highest number of votes for the office is entitled to a certificate of nomination or certificate of election even though a certificate may have been issued to another candidate upon the tabulation of the votes.

But if White assumes office, and then is convicted of, or pleads guilty to, a felony, and resigns from office, he will have created a vacancy.

When, during a recess of the General Assembly, a vacancy shall happen in any office, the appointment to which is vested in the General Assembly; or when, at any time, a vacancy shall have occurred in any other State office, or in the office of Judge of any Court; the Governor shall fill such vacancy, by appointment, which shall expire, when a successor shall have been elected and qualified.

There is an April 6th hearing on the Democrat’s appeal of the Indiana Recount decision that allowed White to proceed as Secretary of State. The next question, apart from the allegations in the indictment, is whether White was eligible to be on the ballot at all.

You’ll find the Indiana Democratic Party’s “Brief in Support of Reversal of Indiana Recount Commission” (pdf) at the Indiana Law Blog.

Here’s another take by Brenda Wright at Demos






36 replies
  1. 1
    El Cid says:

    He wasn’t working on a program to increase voter registration by poor and black people, so there really isn’t a crime involved.

  2. 2
    Bulworth says:

    Unless he is a member of the New Black Panther Party then I don’t think he can be accused of voter fraud.

  3. 3
    Yutsano says:

    “I made a couple silly mistakes. I’ll learn from it.”

    C’mon Kay, how can you possibly oppose the Hoocoodanode defense? I bet he not only uses that but it works. Indiana sounds like it has bigger institutional problems than just mistaken addresses.

  4. 4
    Hunter Gathers says:

    White’s not going anywhere. The trial will drag on forever, and even if he is convicted (highly doubtful), Daniels, or future Governor Mike Pence, will just replace White with a Republican anyway. Remember, IOKIYAR. Especially if it’s Indiana, which is nothing more than Alabama with a pro football team.

  5. 5
    jwb says:

    It was clearly the intent of the Indiana legislature to disenfranchise poor and minority voters, not top GOP office holders, so clearly the law wasn’t intended to apply to someone like White. Nothing to see here. Just keep walking.

    Seriously, thanks for following up on this. It’s good to see what’s going on, and we can never depend on the bought and paid for corporate media to cover anything not in the interest of our corporate overlords.

  6. 6
    Uloborus says:

    Once again, I will go with the Bennen(enenenana? I’m no good with names) System in an attempt to explain why the media doesn’t care. It’s my favorite.

    This story is not really worth covering for a variety of reasons. There’s no established narrative to follow while pretending you’re not following it. More importantly, it’s an example of actual corruption and malfeasance, and also local politics. It is not part of a national political campaign. Basically, it’s a real issue, not the horse race. Only saps think that politicians being corrupt is important. What’s important is whether one side is saying the other is corrupt.

    That is why a Savvy newsman wouldn’t give this story the time of day.

  7. 7
    El Cid says:

    @Bulworth: Maybe if he’s a member of Black.

  8. 8

    I like the title. Something with “Sycamore” woulda been clever too.

  9. 9
    kay says:

    @Uloborus:

    It is not part of a national political campaign.

    I think Mitch Daniels is a national figure, as is the (new) House member who voted to allow White to assume the office. The petition that went to the US Supreme Court on Indiana’s law that restricts voter access had his name on it, as he was then the IN Sec of State.

  10. 10
    kay says:

    @El Cid:

    My big fear is media and conservatives will use this story to justify still-more onerous requirements for ordinary voters.
    I would not be surprised by that, at this point.

  11. 11
    Brachiator says:

    Indiana Secretary of State Charlie White was indicted Thursday on seven felony charges. A Hamilton County grand jury indicted White on three counts of voter fraud for allegedly lying about his address when he voted in last year’s Republican primary.

    So, let’s see if I have this straight. This Charlie White guy was actually born and raised in Kenya.

  12. 12
    Corner Stone says:

    Is it too meta to mention that this guy’s name is “White”?

  13. 13
    ppcli says:

    @Hunter Gathers: Auburn isn’t a pro football team? Tell that to Cam Newton.

  14. 14
    Kryptik says:

    Amazing, innit, that the party that is the most ‘concerned’ about voter fraud is the one that seems the most eager to commit and forgive it? And I used to think it was just the ‘voter disenfranchisement’ stripe of fraud they embraced, but they apparently embrace both as long as it gets their laws made permanent and helps to fuck over anyone else who wants to vote! FREEDUM, BITCHES!

  15. 15
    Zifnab says:

    I think this post is just begging for the IOKIYAR tag.

  16. 16
    Uloborus says:

    @kay:
    No, you misunderstand. It’s not that it isn’t important nationally. It’s that ‘Republicans are corrupt and suppressing votes’ isn’t a recognized message. It’s not part of a CAMPAIGN. It’s not politics, it’s government. To put it another way, it’s not he-said-she-said.

  17. 17
    a hip hop artist from Idaho (fka Bella Q) says:

    Really, jwb and Uloborus have it diagnosed. I disagree, and believe this is what actual voter fraud looks like, and while it’s rare, it needs to be dealt with. Not to mention reported, in the media. As if.

  18. 18
    Scott says:

    Criminalizing politics!

  19. 19
    Capri says:

    FWIW, Mitch Daniels has called for White to step down. The Republicans (at least those with ambitions for higher office like Rokita and Daniels) are not happy at all that this is playing out.

    White maintains that he’ll be vindicated and has refused to leave. White is the living, breathing definition of a party hack. He ran this year because by his calculation the Republican tide was going to elect every R on the ballot, even him.

    All this was known before the election. The Democratic candidate ran on the platform that White was about to be indited. Not that helped in what was pretty much a straight ticket election.

    It also didn’t help that it came out that his opponent’s first name, Vop, was short for Voice of the People. Go figure.

  20. 20
    Mr. Long Form says:

    Hey, who said you were allowed to practice actual journalism here? What’s with all the facts and logic? I’m calling David Brooks right now to write a column about it, and then have a good cry.

  21. 21
    BGinCHI says:

    From a well-connected (politically) friend of mine who lives in Fishers, IN:

    “It’s all over the news – Gov called for his resignation and everyone else too. The allegations were a rumor about a week before the election last fall.

    I’ve met this guy. He’s one of those people you just hate. He’s super aggressive, avaricious, and wouldn’t hesitate to slam his mother’s fingers in a door to get in first. And, I’ve told everyone that I know why they should share my hate of him — for at least five years. But as you know, most people are superficial and, at least in Indiana, easily misled by a know-it-all.

    What really sucks is that Fishers has gone from 2,500 people to 75,000 in fifteen years. Since we’re a town (which I prefer over a city), we have no Mayor. Due to the fast growth, the town is cut up in the the most gerrymandered cluster fuck you’ve ever seen. Bottom line, Fishers has no elected representative with state-wide visibility. THIS JACK-ASS LIVES IN FISHERS.

    He won’t resign. He’s not delusional, just a pure dick. Hopefully they can remove him or someone will shoot him before the primaries.”

  22. 22
    catclub says:

    @Hunter Gathers: “Especially if it’s Indiana, which is nothing more than Alabama with a pro football team.”

    Are you implying that the Crimson Tide of Alabama is NOT professional?

  23. 23
    Ash Can says:

    I’m sure Fox will cover this as soon as they get the “D” key unstuck on the keyboard they use to type out their on-screen graphics.

  24. 24
    El Cid says:

    @kay: I would be very shocked if they didn’t.

  25. 25
    kay says:

    @El Cid:

    The final insult is he (allegedly) lied about his residence so he could keep his government job. He continued to collect the paycheck for the township job.

    They’re impossible to parody, conservatives.

  26. 26
    kay says:

    @Uloborus:

    Okay, I see what you’re saying. I’ll update after the April hearing. I’m not traveling to Marion County, Indiana, but hopefully the results will be on-line.

  27. 27
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Yutsano:

    C’mon Kay, how can you possibly oppose the Hoocoodanode defense?

    Wait, you mean the Indiana Secretary of State, the guy who’s supposed to oversee Indiana elections, is also supposed to know and understand election law?

    That’s just crazy talk.

  28. 28
    kay says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    Oh, God, it’s worse. He drew the boundaries he’s claiming ignorance about. When he had the job he was ineligible to keep.
    I think we probably find out he was trying to keep his gubmint health insurance, in case he lost the Sec of state race.

  29. 29
    Uloborus says:

    @kay:
    I love the Benen ‘Cult Of The Savvy’ hypothesis. They’re not sucking up to conservatives or their corporate masters deliberately. They’re just terrible journalists who think they’re smarter than us and that it’s uncool to care about anything. In the current political climate this plays utterly into the hands of conservatives, who don’t care about anything and are just ruthlessly politicking.

  30. 30
    Noodler says:

    Nice job on this, pulling the thread a little bit more, adn original content. Is there to be a perp walk?

  31. 31
    jwest says:

    As a conservative, I sincerely hope that White is tried, convicted of multiple felonies and given the maximum possible sentence.

    This will set a good precedent for anyone who commits voter fraud in the future and be an example for other states to emulate the Indiana laws and enforcement policies. If moving without changing your voter registration address for 7 months is a felony, some of the things that happen routinely in Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Louis and number of other cities will be capital crimes. I wonder what the party breakdown of convicts will be after 5 or 10 years of following this example.

  32. 32
    BGinCHI says:

    @jwest: I don’t know, dumbass, since you haven’t even gotten the issue right.

    If moving without changing your voter registration address for 7 months is a felony…

    That’s not what made what kay writes about illegal. It’s the cover-up, lies, etc.

    You guys really don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about, do you?

  33. 33
    kay says:

    @jwest:

    You’d have to read the indictment, which you won’t do. I’m not going to go through it with you line by line.

    Incidentally, this is the person who is in charge of elections in Indiana. The gentleman that voted to throw out the original complaint? The person who was in charge of elections in Indiana prior to this man.

  34. 34
    Mnemosyne says:

    @jwest:

    If moving without changing your voter registration address for 7 months is a felony, some of the things that happen routinely in Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Louis and number of other cities will be capital crimes.

    Sorry, it was the moving and continuing to accept a salary from the city council of a city he didn’t live in anymore that’s causing him the problems.

    But I guess you don’t mind having your tax dollars fraudulently go into the pocket of a guy who’s not actually on the city council as long as he’s on the same team as you, amirite?

  35. 35
    rikryah says:

    I read the story, and if this were a Dem…this story would be COAST TO COAST.

  36. 36
    timb says:

    This is the sentence that troubled me: Jim Bopp, a Republican National Committee member and a Terre Haute attorney. Jim Bopp may be the most evil man in America who you have never heard of.* If you of something, anything that is terrible about elections and election law in America in the last 15 years, there is an awesome chance that Jim “secret money” Bopp (who opposes disclosure in election laws) was in the middle of it.

    I say this as a Hoosier: Indiana is amazingly corrupt, which is the result of one party rule

    *politically speaking, of course

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