Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana has been ruled ineligible to vote back home, a blow for the six- term Republican facing a Tea Party-backed primary challenger who says the senator is out of touch with his state. The Marion County Election Board voted 2-1 along party lines today, with two Democratic members finding Lugar and his wife ineligible to vote in his home precinct. Lugar, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is registered to vote with an Indianapolis address of a home he sold in 1977. He now lives in northern Virginia. The board ruled there is “substantial reason” to believe a non-criminal election violation occurred because the Lugars “abandoned” their Indiana residence, losing their right to vote there.
In a statement, Lugar spokesman Andy Fisher said the senator and his wife “scrupulously complied” with state law and that three Indiana attorneys general have issued opinions stating that Lugar complied with residency requirements. The state allows a past residence to be considered Congress members’ home for voting purposes while they are in office, Fisher said. “The Lugars have also sought and followed the express direction of every legitimate government authority to have addressed the question,” Fisher said.
A spokeswoman for the Marion County board, Angie Nussmeyer, said Lugar can appeal the decision to a local court. He could register to vote from another residence. The Lugar family owns a farm in the county, although it isn’t clear whether it would satisfy the requirement for a residence. The ruling won’t affect Lugar’s ability to seek re-election in November. State Treasurer Richard Mourdock, a Republican, is challenging Lugar in his May 8 primary. The deadline to file for the primary is April 9. The winner will run against Democratic U.S. Representative Joe Donnelly. Lugar prevailed in an earlier challenge by Mourdock backers to his ability to be on the ballot. The Indiana Election Commission last month ruled Lugar is eligible to seek re- election.