White blames transient time for voting allegations
By TOM LoBIANCO The Associated Press June 20, 2011 9:48PM
Indiana Secretary of State Charlie White speaks as his wife, Michelle, listens during an interview at his home in Fishers, Ind., on Saturday, June 18, 2011. | AP photo
INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana Secretary of State Charlie White is expected to paint a picture of a man with a complicated personal life who was essentially without a home for nearly a year when he defends himself against voter fraud allegations during an Indiana Recount Commission hearing.
But White’s tale of what he calls efforts to care for his son and respect the wishes of his then-fiancee may not hold sway with the commission, which is under a judge’s order to decide whether he illegally voted in the May 2010 primary while registered at his ex-wife’s address.
A ruling against White would invalidate his election and force his removal from office. He also could face jail time if convicted in a separate criminal case.
“I cannot believe I’m fighting for my life, my family, over something like this. It’s tragic,” White told The Associated Press during a Saturday interview at the Fishers condo he shares with his second wife, Michelle, and their children from previous marriages.
Tuesday’s hearing comes a day after a federal judge denied White’s request that his testimony before the Recount Commission be shielded from use in a separate criminal trial scheduled for August. White faces seven felony charges, including three counts of voter fraud. A conviction on any of the counts would be enough to remove him from office, and possibly put him in jail.
Judge Louis Rosenberg said there was no clear legal precedent for granting immunity if it had not been requested by prosecutors.
White has tried unsuccessfully to delay the commission hearing until after his criminal trial so he wouldn’t risk incriminating himself.
The Indiana Democratic Party has pressed since September for a special investigation of White, arguing he was ineligible to run for secretary of state because he fraudulently registered to vote last year. The party contends White intentionally skirted the law to keep his seat on the Fishers Town Council after moving out of the district he represented.
Indiana law requires voters to have lived in their precinct for at least 30 days before the next general, municipal, or special election. White has previously acknowledged the voting error, chalking it up to his busy schedule and new marriage.
Democratic Party Chairman Dan Parker called White’s story of personal strife “a figment of Charlie’s imagination.”
“Tomorrow is judgment day and he cannot duck and dodge any more from the facts,” Parker said Monday.
Dan Sigler, a special prosecutor for White’s criminal case, said he was “shocked” that White was talking publicly at all. He declined further comment.
White’s ex-wife, Nicole Mills, described White as essentially homeless for a year starting in May 2009.
“He was living out of his car. He literally had a lot of his clothes in his car. He ate out of his car. That’s where most of his possessions were,” Mills said.
White and Mills told the AP that the allegations against him ignore a complicated personal life in which White was trying to raise his now-10-year-old son, William, plan his second marriage and campaign for the job of the state’s top elections official.
Mills said White left his apartment in May 2009 to save money for a new home. He reasoned, she said, that he spent most of his time on the road campaigning anyway.
Mills said she told White he could stay at her house in the meantime, which would allow him to see William more. Mills said she gave him full access to her home and said he could have his mail sent there.
White bought the condo he now shares with second wife, Michelle, on the east side of Fishers in February 2010. She and her three children moved in first; he said he joined them after the two married on May 28, 2010, because she didn’t want to live together until they were married.
Michelle White, who was present during the AP’s interview with her husband, also said she asked that the two not live together before they were married.
In the meantime, White said, he spent more time on the road and at his ex-wife’s house.
“I was over there more than I was here, because of her wishes, because of Michelle’s wishes,” White said.
White said he voted twice during that period — in a November 2009 school funding referendum and again in the May primary.
He claimed he asked an election official to change his address to his ex-wife’s house in November 2009 because that was the nearest thing he had to a regular home at that point.
He said he later discovered that the paperwork to change his voter registration had not been filed, so he filed the paperwork himself in February 2010. He completed the purchase of his condo a few days later.
White voted in the May 2010 primary using Mills’ address. A month later, he formally filed to run for secretary of state and listed his residence as the new condo. But he said he still listed his ex-wife’s house as his mailing address because that’s where most of his mail had been going.
In September 2010, Fishers Democratic attorney Greg Purvis publicly accused White of voter fraud. A Hamilton County grand jury indicted him this March.
White has resisted calls to step down while the criminal case is pending. The Republican-led Indiana Recount Commission, which initially dismissed Democrats’ challenge to White’s candidacy, was ordered by a Marion County judge in April to rehear the case.