Breaking News: Indiana Supreme Court Unanimously Reverses in Charlie White Case, Says He’s Eligible for His Sec. of State’s Office

IndyStar:

Former Indiana Secretary of State Charlie White was eligible to run for office, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled this morning.

The state’s highest court issued a unanimous decision this morning saying that even though White was registered to vote at his ex-wife’s house when he ran for office, he could still be a candidate.

In its decision, the Supreme Court, which has never overturned an election because of a challenge like this, said it was hesitant to go against the will of the voters.

UPDATE: You can read the opinion here.

Further UPDATE:  The opinion states that “The appeal before us today does not decide any questions flowing from White‘s subsequent criminal convictions, but rather whether the Democratic Party‘s petition was a basis for barring his taking office after winning the election. We hold it was not.”  The Court’s conclusion that White was eligible to take office means that the Democrat does not ascend to the Secretary of State’s position, and that Gov. Daniels will appoint a successor (which I assume will be a temporary successor in the event that White’s criminal convictions are overturned).

The reasoning of the Court is an interesting mix of a laches argument and the Democracy Canon: the Democratic Party knew about the residency problems, and should have sued sooner: their failure to do so would deprive the voters of their choice in the election:

Our conclusion is that the Code places a burden on political campaigns to investigate and vet their opposition before the pre-election time limitations expire, but that is better than the alternative: that a challenger might ignore a known (or knowable) disqualification challenge before the election, wait to see who won at the polls, and then seek to set aside the results of the democratic process. Such a result is inconsistent with free elections and respect for voters‘ expressed preferences. Here, the allegations of White‘s registration impropriety arose before the election and were made public by private citizens, the media, and by the Osili campaign and by the Democratic Party. It is likely that the average voter was aware that there were concerns about White‘s voter registration history at the time of the election, but we will not, on the basis of the present petition, judicially disenfranchise voters who went to the polls aware of what were at that moment only allegations. The fact that criminal charges were filed after the election and resulted in convictions (appeals still pending) does not alter that conclusion.

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