Thursday, February 23, 2012

Thoughts On Charlie White

I have many, many thoughts on the Charlie White saga, so I may use multiple posts to put it all across. Some of my insights come from being a Fishers resident (White was on the Fishers Town Council), a former Hamilton County political boss (I chaired the Libertarian Party, I believe he is still chair of the Republicans... he was chair at least during the times of my tenure), and a former candidate for Secretary of State (White had been elected Secretary of State prior to being stripped of office).

The main thing that has bothered me about this case is that I absolutely detest this kind of ticky tack law. I have long maintained that the real purpose of these laws is as a 'gotcha' device. This case fairly well shows how that works.

But I also know it from other cases. Interestingly, Charlie White was able to remain on the ballot, despite the world knowing about the case prior to the election. Libertarian candidates who have the most minute, meaningless errors on their paperwork routinely get bounced from the ballot summarily. In 2006, while I was running for Secretary of State, and handful of Libertarians from around the state got bounced from the ballot because the Elections Division decided to enforce a technicality that hadn't been enforced before, and that our party was unaware of statewide. Too bad, no mercy for us. Bam! Gone. I called a press conference, and a couple of reporters turned up. I stood behind the would-be candidates, shouted from the Statehouse steps, and the item wasn't even reported.

So, it bothers me about the haphazard enforcement and standards. I mean, just today, by some miracle, it was found that Rick Santorum does have enough signatures to be on the ballot after all. He was 8 short before, and now, voila! he has enough. If a Libertarian is short? Rules are rules! Fire and brimstone!

Just days after the 2006 removal of 11 Libertarian candidates, 10 Fort Wayne Republicans had signature issues. Ha- issues. They fired their executive director for FORGING signatures on their forms. It's kind of interesting to look back on what I had to say:
The Libertarian Party just had eleven candidates withheld from the ballot for failing to meet a technicality. Well! What's good for the goose is good for the gander. These ten or so Republican candidates need to disappear from the ballot immediately if the law is the law, and the Elections Division is providing consistent outcomes.

Now personally, I think the booting of candidates is a great disservice to the people of our state, but the bar has been set. I think a better outcome would be that the eleven Libertarian candidates would be certified, and a fine levied against the Libertarian Party for missing the technicality, and everyone there moves on.

In the case of the Republicans, the best outcome might be that the ten or so candidates are put on the ballot, and the Executive Director might face some jail time, if in fact he committed perjury when forging the signatures of candidates.

Jail? From Indiana Code:

IC 3-14-1-13
Filing fraudulent reports
Sec. 13. A person who knowingly files a report required by IC 3-9 that is fraudulent commits a Class D felony.
As added by P.L.5-1986, SEC.10.

All of the State's campaign forms specify at the bottom of the first page:

A person who knowingly files a fraudulent report commits a Class D felony (IC 3-14-1-13).

Felons go to jail. Pretty simple.

Republicans and Democrats wrote this law. Republicans and Democrats should therefore be the standard bearer and the exemplars in how to do this correctly, and how to bear the consequences when this is done fraudulently- if there is to be integrity in our elections.
Nobody went to jail there. White isn't going to jail, but had the felonies hung on him, and faces a year's in-house detention. (Yes, the funny joke there is, "Which house? His ex-wife's?")

And yet, I still find White's case lamentable. Not only do I want every Libertarian on the ballot. I want every candidate on the ballot. If one loses an election, I want it to be because the voters decided, not a bureaucrat in the Elections Office decided it, or because they couldn't be on the ballot thanks to a legislature bent on political self-preservation.

But, the rules are the rules. I and other Libertarians may well detest the laws, but we comply. You have to pick your battles. Do you want to be on the ballot? Then you have to follow the rules. Make a case against the rules, but comply. Get elected and change the rules. We speak out about the rules all the time. I'll note that I never heard Charlie White once speak out against the rules. Nor did I ever hear him speak out in support of a candidate bounced from the ballot. He was a County Chair and a candidate for Secretary of State, which were all good avenues for speaking up about the rules. Never a peep. I guess he accepted the rules, right up until they ensnared him.

At the end of the day, here's what I would like to see happen:

1. It's just paperwork. At the very least, let's eliminate felonies for candidate filings. I'd like to see the most minimal paperwork requirements possible. Yes, we have to know who we're putting on the ballot. Yes, we need to know that this candidate is eligible to run, and lives in the jurisdiction for the office sought (White may have been out of his Town Council district, but he still lived in the state while seeking statewide office.)

2. Broaden ballot access. The Republicans got the scare of their lives, looking at the prospect of losing ballot access with the possibility of White being declared ineligible to be a candidate, with ballot access tied solely to the Secretary of State race. Let's broaden the access rules by tying the result to any statewide candidate in a four-year cycle, at the very least. I would also like to see the threshold lowered to the 1994 standard: 0.5%, The 2% requirement is keeping other 3rd parties off the ballot, especially the Greens.

More later.

1 comment:

Greg Purvis said...

Mike, you had asked elsewhere what Charlie White was charged with. A copy of the indictments can be found here: