Board rules Lugar not eligible to vote in Indiana

2012-03-15T15:15:00Z 2012-03-21T12:10:40Z Board rules Lugar not eligible to vote in IndianaBy Dan Carden dan.carden@nwi.com, (317) 637-9078 nwitimes.com

INDIANAPOLIS | U.S. Sen. Dick Lugar will be on Indiana's Republican primary ballot May 8, but the five-term senator may not be able to vote for himself.

The Democratic-controlled Marion County Election Board ruled 2-1 Thursday that Lugar and his wife, Charlene, are not residents of Indiana, therefore ineligible to cast a ballot.

The Lugars sold their Indianapolis home in 1977 when Dick Lugar first began serving in the U.S. Senate. They've lived in McLean, Va., for the past 35 years.

The Indiana Constitution declares no Hoosier who leaves the state in the service of the state loses his or her residency. The bipartisan Indiana Election Commission relied on that provision last month in rejecting a challenge to Lugar's ballot eligibility.

But the county election board said different standards apply to voting and running for office, and Lugar's absence from Indianapolis for more than three decades makes him ineligible to vote.

"It is contrary to principles of representative government to allow one's status alone to permit them to vote for candidates for local offices and state legislative offices from a Marion County precinct with which they have had no real connection for over 35 years," the board said.

Lugar spokesman Andy Fisher said attorneys for the senator are reviewing the decision and plan to appeal.

"Since Senator Lugar took office, he and Mrs. Lugar have scrupulously complied with Indiana law, which preserves the residency of Hoosiers serving their state and country outside of Indiana," Fisher said.

Christopher Conner , a spokesman for Richard Mourdock, Lugar's opponent in the Republican Senate race, said the ruling shows Lugar is "out of touch."

"It's sad that Senator Lugar had to be instructed by the Marion County Election Board that he must maintain an actual home in the state he represents in the U.S. Senate," Conner said.

This is not the first Indiana case in which a candidate was deemed eligible to run for office but not permitted to vote.

Former Republican Secretary of State Charlie White was convicted of felony voter fraud last month for voting in May 2010 in a precinct in which he did not reside. The Indiana Supreme Court ruled in a separate case Thursday that White was eligible to have run for office despite his improper voter registration.

Marion County Clerk Beth White, no relation to Charlie White, said she doesn't plan to refer the Lugar case to prosecutors because the Lugars did not knowingly vote illegally, calling their actions a "noncriminal election law violation."

Lugar may not need to fight the ruling to regain his eligibility to vote. The Lugars still can establish residency and register to vote at any Indiana address before the April 9 deadline to cast a ballot in the May 8 primary election.

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