INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Charlie White might not have been aware he could be breaking election law when he registered to vote at his ex-wife's address in Indiana's May 2010 Republican primary. But whether he acted deliberately or out of ignorance, experts say the action undermines the credibility of the state's top elections office.
"There are two scenarios, and neither one is very flattering," said Robert Dion, a political science professor at the University of Evansville. "Either he was not aware of the law -- and that doesn't raise a lot of respect -- that you have to live in the district you represent, (or) if he did know, that's even worse."
After more than a year of legal wrangling, White's fate now rests with the jurors who will be selected starting Monday in Noblesville. Their task: To determine whether the state's top election official is guilty of voter fraud, perjury and theft.
If convicted, White could face prison time and be forced to give up his office. But Dion said the stakes are even higher.
Though White himself has downplayed the power of his office, the secretary of state is the ultimate arbiter of Indiana elections and tops the ballot in off-year elections. The state constitution gives the secretary of state authority to oversee elections by registering candidates and certifying winners, even in case of a recount. The office also enforces campaign finance laws. And the party that holds the office gets the deciding vote among precinct officials who run local elections, Dion noted.
"It's remarkable, because his position is charged with being the chief election officer for the entire state and overseeing the election laws. Out of all things, that's not what you want to be charged with," said Dion, referring to the voter fraud charge.