IN SOS White weighs in on allegations of ’08 Presidential Primary forgeries

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News release from the Indiana Secretary of State’s office:

Indiana Secretary of State Charlie White Weighs in on Allegations of 2008 Democratic Presidential Primary Petition Forgeries
Encourages candidates to be proactive in preparation for 2012 Primary Elections and for critics to file challenges according to timelines established by state law.

(INDIANAPOLIS, October 14, 2011) – In response to allegations that possibly hundreds of signatures on 2008 Democratic Party Presidential Primary petitions were forged in northern Indiana counties, Secretary of State Charlie White is warning campaigns and candidates aiming to qualify for a spot on Indiana’s May, 2012 Presidential Primary that his office will be on the lookout for any organized effort to sidestep requirements for gathering the required number of individual petition signatures. White urges campaign organizers to begin making plans sooner, rather than later, to assure that every signature submitted on candidate’s qualifying petition is genuine.

Candidates seeking to be listed on Indiana’s Presidential Primary ballot must obtain a minimum of 500 signatures from registered voters from each of Indiana’s nine Congressional districts. For the upcoming Presidential Primary, Indiana law requires each signature be verified by the voter registration office of the county where the voter is registered beginning January 11, 2012. All signatures for the Presidential Primary must be filed with the Indiana Election Division no later than January 31, 2012 at Noon, EST. Signatures for U.S. Senate and gubernatorial primaries have until noon on February 7, 2012, EST.

White expressed frustration with recent reports of petition ballot signature fraud in the hotly contested 2008 Indiana Presidential Primary, in which Indiana was considered to be a pivotal “swing state.” “It is right for Hoosiers in South Bend and St. Joseph County to be concerned about reports that a high number of forged signatures were submitted and somehow passed verified by the county clerk’s office. I would not want to diminish the importance of the issue, however uncovering this information now is somewhat like closing the corral gates after the horses have escaped.”

White continued; “The stability and efficiency of our government is based upon elections being conducted as scheduled, starting with candidate qualifying and ending with certification of election results before an elected official’s term of office ends and another’s begins. There are numerous opportunities to challenge candidate qualifications, election procedures, and even election results, which are built into our election system. The election code establishes deadlines and timeframes for contesting or challenging virtually any action taken during an election. When these timeframes for making objections are observed, issues can usually be dealt with in a meaningful way within the election cycle. It’s highly unlikely that challenges raised months or years after an election can ever be dealt with in a fair and meaningful way.”

According to the Indiana Election Division, filed Presidential Primary candidate applications and accompanying petitions are open for public inspection and copies available through public record requests. The deadline for citizens, political parties or competitors to file challenges to the validity of signatures or other candidate qualifications is February 17, 2012. Challenges to applications for placement on Indiana’s Presidential Primary ballot may be filed with the Indiana Election Division and are adjudicated by the Indiana Election Commission.

“Scrambling near the deadline for filing petition signatures increases the risk that mistakes will be made or illegal shortcuts taken. When this happens, campaigns become subject to challenges, voter confidence is tested, and in the extreme, the results of long completed elections can be clouded. Hoosiers would be well served if our 2012 candidates and campaigns act responsibly and carefully to ensure that forged signature claims do not plague our upcoming Presidential Primary. This issue is particularly important because it is not unforeseeable that Indiana may once again find itself playing a key role in the outcome of the Presidential Election.”

White stopped short of saying those responsible for any forgeries during the 2008 election season should not be identified and held accountable. He encourages citizens to report election irregularities to the appropriate state or local authorities and to their local law enforcement agency if criminal activity is suspected.

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