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Indiana Secretary of State found guilty of six felonies

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February 6, 2012

By Maresa Strano

Indiana

INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana: On February 4, 2012, after 12 hours of deliberation, a jury found Indiana Secretary of State Charlie White (R) guilty of 6 of the 7 felonies for which he was tried, including three counts of voter fraud, two counts of perjury and one of theft. Soon thereafter, Governor Mitch Daniels appointed White’s chief deputy, Jerry Bonnet, as interim Secretary of State. Bonnet has worked in the office since 2005.[1]

Indiana law stipulates that any public official charged with a felony be expelled from office. The event of a vacancy in a top executive office invokes the Governor's duty to appoint a successor to serve the remainder of the former officer's term, per Article 5, Section 18 of the Indiana Constitution. Both actions have been taken, but the matter of who will serve out the remainder of White's term has not yet been settled.

Republican Governor Mitch Daniels said that despite the verdict arriving at "an exceptionally busy time in the Secretary of State’s office as signatures for president, U.S. Senate and governor are being certified this month,” he does not intend to make Bonnet's, or any other, appointment permanent as long as there remains a possibility that a judge could reduce White's charges from Class D felonies to misdemeanors.[1]

Further complicating the outcome of White's conviction and the office's transition to a new Secretary is the looming verdict of a civil case currently investigating claims filed by the state's Democratic Party that White lied about his address on a voter registration form years ago in order to protect his seat on the Fishers City Council, thus enabling him to run in the primary election for Secretary of State in 2010. If verified, the improper registration incident would render White retro-actively ineligible to serve in the position. The case is pending at the Indiana Supreme Court, and could result in the court deciding that former candidate, Democrat Vop Osili, who White defeated by over 300,000 votes in 2010, should have been elected secretary of state.[2]

The dovetailing cases make it difficult to form predictions about the immediate future of the office and who will preside over it for the rest of the term. Whether or not White's criminal charges are reduced to a level consistent with qualifications for reinstatement, as Gov. Daniels is hoping they will be, an affirmative determination of original ineligibility by the civil court would trump the Governor's authority over the matter, and Osili would become Indiana's Secretary of State by default.

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