Friday, March 30, 2012

Lugar Blinks: Agrees To Re-Register To Vote At Family Farm

Attorneys for Sen. Richard Lugar reached a settlement agreement with the Marion County Election Board late this morning that will bring his and his wife's voter registration challenge to an end. Sen. Lugar and his wife will re-register to vote at the family's farm in Decatur Township located in Precinct #10 prior to next week's deadline for updating a voter's registered voting address. The Lugars have been continuously registered to vote and voting for the past 35 years using the address of a home the couple sold in 1977. The Lugars contended that the Indiana Constitution permitted the couple to continue voting at a home they readily admitted they long ago abandoned because he had been absent from the state while in continuous service as a U.S. Senator. The Marion County Election Board disagreed at a March 15th hearing on a complaint brought by Greg Wright and several dozen other registered voters challenging their registered voting address, determining that the Lugars could no longer vote at their former precinct because they lacked any physical presence required for voter registration purposes within that precinct.

An attorney for the Lugars, Lee McNeely, told reporters following the announcement of the agreed stipulation of dismissal of the Lugars' complaint challenging the election board's ruling that the Lugars wanted to "put the issue to rest." McNeely believes that there has never been any question that the Lugars are residents of Marion County; rather, the question is where they should be properly and legally registered to vote. Agreeing to re-register at the family's long-established farm in Decatur Township provided an "easy resolution" to the litigation McNeely told reporters.

By way of disclosure, I represented Greg Wright in the challenge before the election board and filed an amicus brief in opposition to the Lugars' complaint seeking injunctive relief from the Marion County Circuit Court that would have permitted them to continue voting at the 3200 Highwoods Court home the couple sold in 1977. My client and I have said all along we believed a registration at the Lugar's family farm would satisfy Indiana's residency requirements for voter registration purposes. We are pleased with today's outcome. I would particularly like to applaud the election board members, Chairman Mark Sullivan and Marion County Clerk Beth White, for the principled position they took in applying the voter registration laws on the same terms to the Lugars as would be applied to any other registered voters. They took a lot of criticism from the Lugars and some in the media for their decision, who accused them of engaging in partisan politics. In light of the Charlie White case, it would have been hypocritical for any election official in this state to have simply disregarded the problem with the Lugars continuing to vote in a precinct which everyone acknowledges they've had no physical connection since 1977.

There continues to be a separate matter in the Marion Superior Court that is set for hearing next week that was brought by a separate set of plaintiffs seeking to overturn a determination of the Indiana Elections Commission to dismiss a complaint challenging Sen. Lugar's candidacy based on the argument that Lugar is no longer an inhabitant of the state, one of three constitutional requirements required in order to serve as a Senator. It is my belief that the challenge fails because Lugar only has to show that he is an inhabitant of the state as of the November election. In other cases, federal courts have ruled that pre-election challenges based on whether a candidate met the inhabitatancy requirement amounted to an impermissible pre-election qualification. Marion Superior Court Judge Michael Keele will hear the appeal of the Election Commission decision  in Lugar's favor on April 3.

You can read the Stipulation of Dismissal Agreement and the written explanation of Sen. Lugar and the election board's attorney, Andrew Mallon, explaining the mutual agreement to allow the Lugars to re-register at the family farm in Decatur Township here.

1 comment:

patriot paul said...

Lugar has refused previously to claim the family farm as his residency or inhabitancy because he said it would be dishonest because he didn't live there. Despite his effort to reclaim his address of choice as the one he sold 35 years ago, and his obstinacy to 'pay' for new digs, he is now compelled to do what his challenger & tea party wanted: claim a place prior to election. This kind of capitulation is embarrassing and shameful. That's all that was ever requested in the first place yet he had to go to court and still arrive at the same solution as the one we previously provided to him.
question: If the family farm is under corporate management, shouldn't a lease for the Lugars be drawn up?