The Legitimacy of Vop Osili

Now that former Secretary of State, Charlie White, has been convicted of voter fraud; there will be a battle over who is rightfully entitled to that office.

I have previously pointed out that, under IC 3-12-11-25, Vop Osili is entitled to a certificate of election. That statute says:

[W]henever the [recount] commission makes a final determination under section 18 of this chapter that the candidate who is subject to a contest proceeding is not eligible to serve in the office to which the candidate is nominated or elected, the candidate who received the second highest number of votes for the office is entitled to a . . . certificate of election even though a certificate may have been issued to another candidate upon the tabulation of the votes.

(emphasis added) (Also, if you read that statute, it speaks to Osili’s right to a certificate of election. It makes little sense to believe that, if White was an illegitimate candidate to start with, that White’s subsequent acts – be it getting a criminal conviction or tendering a resignation – should be able to compromise whatever rights Osili has.)

Osili didn’t write that law. It was a policy choice made by past General Assemblies – both the one that enacted the law in the first place and the successive ones that chose not to modify that provision over the years. So, for Osili’s opponents to complain that efforts on his behalf to have him take the office are somehow illegitimate is just so much sound and fury. He is seeking to have the law enforced; “legitimate” by definition — of or conforming to the law.

The more interesting question has more to do with an equitable or moral claim to the office. That question hinges on whether an election is seen more as a contest between candidates or as between political parties. Are you casting your vote for an individual or for the political party as a collective? That question probably differs from person-to-person and even from race-to-race. For example, I voted for John Dennis to be mayor of West Lafayette. If he was somehow disqualified, I’d be upset if he was replaced by, say, Mike Pence. I wasn’t voting for a political party or against Mayor Dennis’ challenger, John Polles. In that election, I have the feeling the individual and not the party has the stronger claim to the office; but, I admit, that view is probably idiosyncratic, dependent on how I went about deciding on how I would cast my vote.

In the case of the Secretary of State race, if you feel like it’s a battle between parties and not individuals; then, clearly, you’d view it as inappropriate for Osili to take White’s place. If you feel like it’s a battle between individuals, then replacing White with a guy who got zero votes hardly seems preferable to Osili getting the office on the strength of the 632,000 Hoosiers who did vote for him.

Charlie White

The Indiana Election Board’s hearing on Charlie White is today. Everyone and their dog is covering it (interesting testimony gets repeated four or five times in my Twitter stream), and I haven’t been watching the twists and turns with any diligence, so I’m definitely not your best source of information. But, when has that ever stopped me.

White’s case is remarkable because, for all of the gnashing of teeth about voter fraud, the only case we’ve heard about involves, of all people, the guy voted to enforce our election laws. And Voter ID requirements didn’t do a thing to stop it. (Further indication that voter fraud is a pretext and stringent Voter ID requirements are not a good faith solution to a legitimate problem).

The thrust of this hearing is to determine whether White was legally registered to vote when he became a candidate to be Indiana Secretary of State. The problem is that he appears to have misrepresented his residential address when he registered to vote. He did that, most likely, because being honest about his residence would have disqualified him as a town councilman.

Rather than change his voter registration address to an out-of-precinct address, he used his ex-wife’s address (in the precinct). However, in most other aspects of his life, he used his out-of-precinct condo address. He claimed a homestead deduction for the condo, used it as a place to receive checks, and used it for a good many other purposes.

White seems to be giving the Election Board a choice between believing he’s fairly dishonest or fairly incompetent. Despite being an attorney, county party chairman, and candidate for Secretary of State, White is essentially saying he didn’t know any better. And, in any event, (he says) he was crashing at his ex-wife’s place with her and her new husband. He says his fiancee was living at his new place and wouldn’t let him live there until they were married. His fiancee apparently wasn’t on the lease and, in other documentation, claimed to be living with her mother. White says that had to do with her bad credit.

White claims to have been confused by what was meant by “present address” on his mortgage application, that he didn’t know he had to live in his district to continue serving as councilman, and that he didn’t know he had filed for a homestead deduction.

What It All Means

A blog called Gin and Tacos seems to have a similar distaste for the insistence of the talking heads on cable news to take limited data on election results and project a grand theme about “what the voters are saying.” His simple explanation – districts where Obama won more than 55% of the votes returned Democrats to the House. Otherwise, not. “[T]urnout fell 18-20% compared to 2008. Some people who showed up just to vote for Obama did not show up again, and some people who voted for him decided to vote Republican this time.”

For those who insist on translating the message being sent, the author suggests the American Voter is demanding the following:

1. Social Security reform that guarantees my current level of benefits, alters someone else’s, and cuts everyone’s Social Security taxes to boot.

2. A world-class national infrastructure that can be built and maintained without tax dollars.

3. A balanced budget that doesn’t sacrifice any of the government programs – especially the sacred military-industrial complex and the various old age benefits – that we like.

4. Clean air without pollution controls, clean water with a neutered and underfunded EPA, and businesses that do socially responsible things without any regulation whatsoever.
. . .
It couldn’t be any clearer: we want a government that will resolve every problem we currently face with solutions that require no effort, no sacrifices, and no money.

Wisdom of the People

I know that democracy is founded on the idea that there is wisdom in the people suitable for making decisions on government policy. But, my commitment to that idea – always a little tenuous in any case – gets shaken when I read letters to the editor like this one in the Courier Press.

The writer says that she’s a loyal voter and diligently tries to keep up on the issues. But, that property tax cap referendum caught her by surprise.

On Tuesday when I went to the polls, I was somewhat surprised by the property tax caps referendum. I had heard some discussion about this, but never saw anything about it in the Courier & Press.

I am not saying you did not write an article but I was not aware of this and have also spoken to several others that did not know about this either.

Knowing that such votes negate mine can be a little depressing at times.

Election Day: Go Vote

It’s election day, so you should go vote. The polls are projecting that Congress is looking to return to something like its 2002-2004 composition. Maybe you can do a little to counteract it or push it further, as your preferences dictate. More importantly, there are a lot of local races about which the polls say nothing and which, most likely, have a much greater impact on your day-to-day life. Get out for the local races, if nothing else.

Profiles in CYA: Rokita “investigates” White; won’t show work

The office of the Secretary of State and Indiana Fourth Congressional Candidate, Todd Rokita, has let it be known that they investigated the alleged voting fraud of Charlie White. They talked to people and printed out paper and everything. – 265 pages! (font size not disclosed). – But, they’re not telling anything about it. Because, there are prosecutors and stuff involved, you see. The fact that this will limit additional information until after people have voted on whether Charlie White should take over Rokita’s office is purely incidental.

Rokita is a candidate for office and has made such a very big pretense over being tough on voter fraud, so he had to make like he’s doing something. But, he’s also a loyal party guy, and there’s unlikely to be anything about the investigation that makes White look good, competent, or marginally qualified for Rokita’s job. So, making a show of investigating without actually providing the public with any information about the investigation is about the best he can do. Advance Indiana suggests that these are public records and should be released.

Chris Worden notes the clubby nature of this situation, with both Rokita and White coming out of the Wabash college political science program in 1992. (Having come out of a political science program (of a different school) in 1993, I’m getting closer and closer to the Kurt Vonnegut quote, “True terror is to wake up one morning and discover that your high school class is running the country.”)

J&C Sees Coats as the Path to Bipartisanship

It’s not that I necessarily begrudge the Lafayette Journal & Courier its endorsement of Dan Coats as Senator. Brad “I’m more pro-life than him, lets protect the tax cuts of the ultrawealthy” Ellsworth doesn’t exactly give me the warm fuzzies either. But, the J&C’s rationale for endorsing Coats is a little bit ridiculous. They say that Ellsworth has “contributed to the gridlock” in Washington whereas “Coats has the experience, potential and the gravitas to be a consensus builder.”

Have they been watching the Senate at work at all? Even Sen. Dick “gravitas” Lugar has been reflexively and frequently voting for filibusters. This isn’t just an absence of bipartisanship, this is a refusal to even let matters come to a vote. The idea that Coats is going to go out on a limb to break a filibuster in defiance of Republican leadership is preposterous. Meanwhile, Ellsworth was a prominent supporter of the Stupak amendment which injected anti-abortion provisions into the health care reform bill. This was not popular with most Democrats and especially not with Democratic leadership.

There are probably legitimate reasons the Journal & Courier could have picked to endorse Coats. Increasing the odds of bipartisanship in the United States Senate is not one of them.

Tully on the Coats/Ellsworth Debate

Matt Tully has a very good column on the Indiana Senate debate between Dan Coats and Brad Ellsworth. He points out that Ellsworth is behind in the polls and took pretty much the only path open to him – shining a spotlight on the fact that Coats is a Washington insider who cashed in before returning to Indiana to try to become its Senator again.

Ellsworth seems to be down, if not yet quite out, not so much because of who he is, but because of the mood of the electorate generally. The voters, as a group, are acting like a wounded beast. They don’t really know who is there to help or not. All they know is that they’re hurt, and they’re lashing out at whoever is closest. At the moment, that’s the Democrats. Sure, post-election, we’ll hear a lot about how this was a referendum about [insert analyst's preferred political policy.] But, really, what I think we’re looking at is people clicking a Facebook-esque “don’t like” button at the polls.

Typically, Ellsworth would be the sort of candidate Hoosiers really like. He’s a conservative Democrat with a solid law enforcement history. Meanwhile, Coats really is the sort of candidate voters purport to dislike – a career Washington guy who voted for all sorts of things which were once mainstream for the GOP (e.g., Reagan supported “amnesty” for illegal aliens) but are now beyond the pale as Congressional Republicans drift ever to the right. When confronted with a tough election against Evan Bayh, he bailed out and traded his credentials for good money in the lobbying business.

But, with Ellsworth lacking the money to compete with Coats well-funded campaign, none of that is really penetrating. Hoosiers, like lots of other people, are grumpy but awfully vague about what they think will make things better. Ellsworth is pretty much taking the brunt of the discontent from which he benefited in 2006 and 2008. I think the electorate will continue to thrash about politically for awhile until their pain goes away. All Ellsworth can do, really, is fight against the wind and hopes it somehow shifts at some point.

IN-04: Congressional Candidate Debate Tonight

Tonight (Thursday, October 7) on WLFI, Channel 18, there will be a debate between Congressional candidates, David Sanders (D), Todd Rokita (R), and John Duncan (L).

You can also listen on WBAA AM 920/FM 101.3/ or online.

Panelists will be:
Jeff Smith, of “WLFI-TV 18?,
Mike Loizzo, of “WBAA Radio”,
Ron Wilkins, of “Opinions Page Editor for the Journal and Courier”.
The moderator will be Gina Quattrocchi, “WLFI-TV 18?.

Secretary of State: Drip, Drip

Indiana Democrats are attempting to press their advantage with Charlie White’s recently exposed challenges with election law. A candidate for any other position probably wouldn’t have too many problems with this, but the fact is that he is campaigning to be the state’s chief election officer. So, you have to get the election law stuff right, particularly when your predecessor has made such a fuss about the perils of election fraud.

Mary Beth Schneider lays out the story to date, and points out that White’s explanation is a little thin for why he voted in the wrong district and kept his town council position despite having moved from the district. Thomas Cook describes the White campaign’s explanation as a glorified “whoops.” Bil Browning gives the story a little national push in the pages of the Huffington Post.

Dan Parker, state Democratic party chairman, is asking Secretary of State (and IN-04 candidate) Todd Rokita to back up his office’s talk about voter fraud and investigate White. Hamilton County Democrat and attorney, Greg Purvis, who I believe broke this story, has asked a special prosecutor be appointed and that a grand jury investigate whether criminal charges are appropriate.

Hoosier Access, one of the more establishment conservative Indiana blog, goes with the “you get to vote one last time in your old district” and “it’s no big deal” defense to White’s having voted where he wasn’t supposed to. (Before trying to change the subject to Vop Osili’s apparent non-response to an abortion advocacy group’s questionnaire.)

This notion that ignorance of election law is no big deal for a Secretary of State candidate (and what about abortion, huh!) is basically just a tap dance, hoping this issue disappears. But, it adds to the evidence that all the huffing-and-puffing about voter fraud as the compelling reason for a draconian voter ID law was mostly just a pretext for shaving a few votes off the opposition.

White’s campaign hasn’t, to my knowledge, cited the code section they think gives him his “one last vote” in his former precinct, but the most applicable chapter is IC 3-10-11. Among other things, the change in residence has to have happened within the past 30 days, the person has to have requested a transfer of the person’s registration, and the person has to have executed an affidavit with the person’s name, date of birth, current address, previous address, and statement that he is qualified to register in his former precinct. The detail required by this statute simply makes it impossible to reconcile the “one last vote” rationale with the “I forgot” rationale. In any event, he should go back to the “I forgot” defense since he moved more than 30 days prior to voting in his old precinct.

Then there is the matter of staying on the Fisher’s Town Board after he was no longer qualified to serve. And, apparently, collecting a salary for doing so. It’s late, and I don’t have any code cites handy at the moment, so I’ll save that for a future drip as this saga continues to unfold.