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.