The Indiana Recount Commission voted 3-0 this morning that Secretary of State Charlie White can remain in office. The panel of two Republicans and one Democrat turned down Democrats’ complaint that White was illegally registered to vote when he declared his candidacy last year.
The ruling came as a relief to White, who smiled and took his wife’s hand as they exited the hearing this morning. He said his feelings today reminded him of his elation after he handily defeated Democrat Vop Osili in last November’s election. “I’m very humbled,” White said after hearing the commission’s ruling. “Obviously, our family is very happy that we’ve been able to at least put the recount commission phase of this is behind us.”
Even though the commission ruled in his favor, White’s job isn’t secure yet. The Democrats could appeal to the courts.
White also could be taken out of office if he’s convicted of any of the seven felonies he has been charged with in Hamilton County. Those charges include three counts of voter fraud. His trial is scheduled for Aug. 8. The commission reached its decision exactly one week after it heard seven hours of testimony from White and others regarding White’s residency.
The Democrats argued that White shouldn’t have been registered to vote at his ex-wife’s address when he declared his candidacy for Secretary of State. They said he was spending some of his time at a new condo he bought for him and his current wife and planned to make that his permanent home.
White testified that he considered his ex-wife’s home to be his permanent address at the time, though he spent lots of time traveling and occasionally stayed at the condo or at his mother’s home.
The commission followed part of the law that says people’s residency can be determined by their intent to live in a certain place. Commission members said during a hearing this morning that White’s intent to live at his ex-wife’s house was clear, and they unanimously decided he was eligible to run for office.
… White didn’t escape the commission unscathed. Commissioner Tom Wheeler criticized White, the state’s top elections official, for apparent unfamiliarity with voting laws. “Mr. White, you were very close to the line,” Wheeler said.
White declined to comment on Wheeler’s admonition, but he did say there is a public misconception that he runs elections. He said election functions are associated with divisions in his office, but they’re a small part of his office’s responsibilities, and other employees are in charge of them. “The county clerks, the county election boards, the voter boards where applicable… they are the ones who run elections,” White said. “People need to know, I do not run elections.”