A Marion Circuit Court judge ruled Wednesday that Secretary of State Charlie White
of State Charlie White, a Republican, was not eligible to be a candidate in
last year's election, and therefore his Democratic opponent, Vop Osili
Osilishould be awarded the office.
Judge Louis Rosenberg said that White was not legally
registered to vote at the time he filed his candidacy and therefore was
ineligible to be on the ballot.
"The fact that Mr. White knowingly registered in the
wrong precinct is sufficient to render him ineligible for the office of
secretary of state," the ruling
said. "Whether or not he believed that his registration complied with the
law is not relevant."
Rosenberg'sruling — which several officials called unprecedented —
overturns a decision by the Indiana Recount Commission and sent the case back
to that group for action. But it's not clear how soon — or even if —
the ruling will be enforced.
"I fully expect Charlie White to fight it all the way to
the Supreme Court," said Indiana Democratic Chairman Dan Parker
Parker. "He needs to do the right thing and step aside and let Vop
take office and restore some dignity to the office."
Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller
Attorney General Greg Zoellerwill appeal the decision on behalf of the
recount commission, his office said Thursday.
obligation of our office is to represent state government boards such as the
Indiana Recount Commission in lawsuits and when a board's unanimous
administrative decision is overturned by a court, the order should be reviewed
by a higher court," said the attorney general's spokesman, Bryan Corbin
Corbin. "We will seek a stay of the court's ruling and are in
communication with our client the recount commission to discuss the process of
But Indianapolis attorney Tom Wheeler
attorney Tom Wheeler, a Republican who chaired the recount commission when
it considered the White case, said he's not sure he even has the authority to
convene the group to try to implement the judge's order.
The commission is not a standing group and its three members
are appointed by the secretary of state and the chairmen of the state
Republican and Democratic parties only when it's needed. That means the
commission disbanded after issuing a ruling in White's case.
"Right now there is no recount commission," Wheeler
said. "There is no chair of the recount commission."
Wheeler said he is asking the attorney general's office for
an opinion about whether he is now the recount commission chairman and whether
he can call a meeting.
"Right now, we're waiting," he said. "Am I in?
Am I out? If I'm out, does the Republican Party chair reappoint a chairman? I
have no idea when a meeting's going to take place because we have to resolve
that preliminary issue."
The holiday also complicates the situation. The state is
officially closed through Monday and the recount commission must give 48 hours
notice of any meetings.
The Marion County ruling and the resulting questions are the
latest twist in a complex political and legal battle that has been brewing
since last year, when Democrats first challenged White's eligibility. Democrats
accused White of failing to live in the home that he listed as his residence
After a hearing in which White explained that he was bouncing
from residence to residence during the period — even occasionally
sleeping in his car — the recount commission ruled unanimously then that
he was eligible to run. Democrats appealed to the Marion Circuit Court.
Meanwhile, White is facing felony voter fraud charges and
Republican leaders — including Gov. Mitch Daniels — have urged him
to step aside during the legal battle.
"As a result of his vote fraud, Charlie White was never
eligible to be a candidate for this office, and he's done nothing but embarrass
Hoosiers since wrongfully assuming the position," Parker said.
But Indiana Republican Chairman Eric Holcomb said the judge
is simply trying to overturn an election.
"Therefore, I respectively call on the Indiana Supreme
Court to stay Judge Rosenberg's decision, take this case directly, and rule as
expeditiously as possible," Holcomb said. "This has gone on long
Despite the legal issues, White defeated Osili at the polls
by about 345,000 votes. Osili recently won a seat on the Indianapolis City-County
Neither White nor anyone from his campaign planned to comment
on the ruling, Feeney-Ruiz said.
Osili declined through Parker to comment on the decision.
Weidenbener is an editor at TheStatehouseFile.com, an Indiana news website
powered by students from the Franklin College Pulliam School of Journalism.