(CN) – Republican Charlie White won the 2010 Indiana secretary of state election, the state’s highest court ruled, deciding the case although White lost his political office when he was convicted of six felony counts during the appeals process.
As White pledged to appeal the Thursday decision, Gov. Mitch Daniels named state Sen. Connie Lawson to fill his seat.
The election results in November 2010 put White ahead of Democrat Vop Osili by 300,000 votes, but state Democratic Party Chairman Daniel Parker filed a petition to challenge his eligibility.
The opposing party claimed that White was not registered to vote at his residence in Fishers, Ind., by the July 2010 deadline to certify candidates.
White had moved into a Fishers condominium with his second wife, but the candidate registration listed his address as the home he originally purchased with his first wife, whom he divorced in 2006.
The Recount Commission dismissed the petition, but the Marion Circuit Court remanded the case for a hearing. After the commission ruled White eligible, the Marion court again overturned the commission and declared him ineligible.
In December 2011, the court said that Osili should be certified as the winner of the election.
The case proceeded to Indiana Supreme Court, which reversed the decision and awarded the election victory to White.
“Here, the allegations of White’s registration impropriety arose before the election and were made public by private citizens, the media and by the Osili campaign and by the Democratic Party,” Judge Randall Shepard.wrote for the court.
“It is likely that the average voter was aware that there were concerns about White’s voter registration history at the time of the election, but we will not, on the basis of the present petition, judicially disenfranchise voters who went to the polls aware of what were at that moment only allegation,” Shepard added.
White’s subsequent felony conviction, which included counts of theft and perjury, “does not alter that opinion,” the court said.
Judge Brent Dickson questioned the voter-registration requirement for Indiana candidates in a concurring opinion.
“The Legislature’s attempt to impose an additional eligibility qualification – requiring a candidate for this position to be ‘registered to vote’ – is violative of the Indiana Constitution and thus cannot serve as a basis upon which to contest a candidate’s eligibility for election to office of secretary of state,” Dickson wrote.