Cheater Charlie

Indiana Secretary of State Charlie White can no longer serve in that position after he was found guilty of felony voter fraud charges. The verdict was delivered at 2:20am this morning.

White, the state’s chief election officer, was found guilty of six out of seven felony counts. The jury found him not guilty on a charge of fraud against a financial institution.

The charges centered around allegations that White was registered at his ex-wife’s home when he voted in the May primary even though he lived at a new townhouse on the other side of Fishers, making him ineligible to run for office. He admits the mistake but denies an effort to deceive calling the incident “an honest mistake.”

White will be sentenced at a later date, possibly early to mid-week next week.

Now speculation turns to his replacement. Right now, Governor Mitch Daniels is operating as if the seat is simply vacant, appointing an interim replacement, chief deputy Jerry Bonnett, before either naming a permanent one or allowing White to return if his conviction gets thrown out on appeal. However, in late December a judge ruled White ineligible to serve, and said that since White was ineligible for the ballot in 2010, his seat should be given to the second-place finisher in that Secretary of State election, Democrat Vop Osili, an Indianapolis City Councilmember. The theory goes that, under Indiana state law, White was not allowed to participate in the 2010 election. And so the winner of that election should be the eligible candidate with the most votes.

The state Supreme Court placed that order on hold, presumably pending the outcome of White’s felony case. Now that it has been decided and White has stepped down, the state Supreme Court will probably have to step forward with a ruling determining who gets to serve out the Secretary of State’s term. However, on appeal White can attempt to reduce the felony convictions to misdemeanors, at which point he would not be forced by law to leave office. That doesn’t solve the problem of him being ineligible for the ballot in the first place by virtue of voter fraud, however.

One important thing to remember is that the only widely publicized case of voter fraud in the past several years comes via a Republican Secretary of State, the state’s chief elections officer. So when conservatives go on and on about the need to crack down on rampant voter fraud, you should reply, “Yes, you’re right, those criminal Republican Secretaries of State need to be stopped.”

David Dayen

David Dayen