For many keeping a close eye on Indiana Secretary of State Charlie White’s legal battle for his political life, their interest is not so much about White as the office — and who will replace him if he is removed from office. On Thursday, a Marion County judge overturned an Indiana Recount Commission decision and ruled that White, who was elected in November 2010, was not legally registered to vote. Thus, the judge said, he did not meet the requirements to be on the ballot, and the second-place finisher should take his place.
An attorney for White filed in Marion County for an emergency stay of that ruling, and a judge has frozen the case until a Jan. 3 hearing on whether to grant that stay. Meanwhile, in five weeks, a Hamilton County jury is scheduled to decide a criminal case against White. Prosecutors have filed seven felony charges, including voter fraud, against him. If he is convicted of any of them, he would be removed from office.
But there is a key difference between the two procedures: If he wasn’t qualified for the ballot, a Democrat would take his place; if he is ejected from office because of a felony conviction, Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels would choose his replacement.
“Ultimately, the civil versus the criminal has been who replaces Charlie White when he’s out of office,” said Indiana Democratic Party Chairman Dan Parker, who is pursuing the civil case against White. “We didn’t write that law. The Legislature wrote that law.”
It’s a law the Indiana General Assembly changed during its 2011 session. If such a situation occurs in the future, instead of a second-place finisher getting the office, the governor will appoint the replacement.