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GOP officials urge White to step down


March 09, 2011
Indiana's top election official, Secretary of State Charlie White, has been indicted on seven felony counts, including voter fraud, theft and perjury, by a grand jury in Indianapolis.

White was accused by a special prosecutor of intentionally voting in the wrong precinct in the May 2010 primary by casting his ballot in a district where he no longer lived. The registered address was a home in Fishers he had shared at times with his ex-wife until 2009. He faces three felony charges of voter fraud and two counts of perjury.

The charges of theft were included because White received paychecks as a member of the Fishers Town Council for months after the date he moved out of the district. He was also charged with financial fraud for allegedly lying while under oath about his address on a home loan. White, a Republican, would be forced by state law to step down as secretary of state if he is convicted of any felony charge.

Just hours after he was indicted, White was under pressure by members of both parties, including Gov. Mitch Daniels, to step aside. Daniels, a Republican, said it was wrong for Indiana's top elections official to serve under the cloud of alleged voter fraud, theft and perjury. But White refused.

"I believe the evidence will prove that I did not intentionally break any laws," White said in a statement after being booked at the Hamilton County Jail and released on $10,000 bond. "But, more importantly, I will continue to do the job I was elected to do."

White has said that his actions were mistakes made in the heat of the 2010 campaign for secretary of state, where he defeated Democrat Vop Osili and Libertarian Mike Wherry by significant margins. But Dan Siglar, acting as one of two special prosecutors working on the case, argued that White willfully deceived voters and the town of Fishers.

"The grand jury indicted him not because of an honest mistake, but for a willful violation of the law," Siglar said in an Indianapolis Star article Friday. "He did it to hold on to his council seat. I don't think the grand jury indicted him to make an example of him. Whether you're a state official or a common citizen, we're all held to the same standards. Everyone's treated the same."

Only a felony conviction would cause White to lose his position, and there may not be much the legislature, the Republican party or even the governor can do to force him to step down in the meantime.

On Thursday, the governor said the "only course of honor" would be for White to step down until a verdict is reached. He added that every other statewide officeholder, even Republicans, agreed.

The issue was brought up by Democrats during the election campaign, but White went on to easily win the election. White insisted several times after the election that "I did not commit voter fraud."

According to The Indianapolis Star article, in December, Daniels urged White not to take office until the charges could be resolved, but White refused and was sworn in on Jan. 6.

"I still don't know much about it," Pat Ramsey, chairman of the Crawford County Republican Party, said. "I got a newsletter for the state party about it, and that's about all I know.

"I don't see how anyone can gain anything with this. Another Republican will be chosen to take his place. No one pushed this hard when it was Evan Bayh that lived somewhere else. He certainly didn't live in Indiana. This man still lived in Indiana, regardless of what district.

"But I just wish they would all quit fighting and take care of business. At this point, I'm going to just wait and see what happens before I judge anyone."

"If he wasn't secretary of state, no one would have known about the case," Joel Schumm, a professor at the Indiana University School of Law-Indianapolis, said in the Indianapolis Star article. "Any number of people do similar things each year and are never caught or prosecuted. But, he is someone who should understand the law better than the average person."

Prosecutors say it could take six months or longer for the case to make it through Hamilton County's court system.

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