By

Lesley Weidenbener

A Marion Circuit Court judge ruled Wednesday that Secretary

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

should 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

. "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

will appeal the decision on behalf of the

recount commission, his office said Thursday.

"One

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

. "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

an appeal."

But Indianapolis

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

for voting.

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

enough."

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

Council.

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.

Lesley

Weidenbener is an editor at TheStatehouseFile.com, an Indiana news website

powered by students from the Franklin College Pulliam School of Journalism.

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