Monday, April 9, 2012

Marion County Political Corruption Continues as Appointees of County Chairman Vote Against Releasing Voter Information to Unslated Candidates

This year there are a number of strong candidates running against the slate put forward by Marion County Republican Chairman Kyle Walker and his Democratic counterpart Ed Treacy.  Apparently this year county chairmen decided that a good way to ensuring victory of the slate is to deny nonslated candidates voter lists that they can themselves use for slated candidates.
Mark Sullivan, Chairman
of the Election Board

In the past, the Marion County Board of Voter Registration provided voter registration files upon request. In 2010, I was able to get an electronic voter file for Pike Township emailed to me within a couple days.

The opportunities for political shenanigans are apparent though when you look at the make up of the Board.  The Board of Voter Registration consists of two members, Susan Mowery appointed by the Republican county chairman and Ladonna Freeman appointed by the Democratic chairman. They serve at the pleasure of their respective county chairmen and do their bidding.

Patrick J. Dietrick,
Election Board Member
This year unslated candidates have been asking for the voter registration file in order to reach out their respective primary voters.  The slated candidates have ready access to the information, access that is not provided to the unslated candidates.  Unslated Democratic judicial candidate Greg Bowes made several requests for voter registration information.  In previous years he's received the information.  Not this year.  I have made three requests for information.  (Today at the hearing Mowery inaccurately told the board I had asked for paper records and they had to wade through some 60 or so file boxes to find the information.  In fact, I specifically had asked for electronic records in all three of my requests.)  Other candidates have made requests for information and been given the run around by the Board of Voter Registration, with varying reasons given for not turning over the information.

Eventually though they decided on a strategy.  Indiana law carves out an exception to the open records law that allows the county election board to decide which electronic voter registration information to release pursuant to a non-discrimination policy.  The purpose behind the law is to ensure that some candidates are not getting information that is denied to other candidates.  That is, of course, exactly what's going on today in Marion County 

Today's hearing of the Election Board was to adopt a non-discrimination policy so the data can be released.  The hearing came following a second opinion of the State Public Access Counselor which said that a county can't get around the law by simply not adopting a policy.
Marion County Clerk Beth White

Even that opinion has it wrong.  Bowes today argued that if an Election Board doesn't adopt a policy to carve out an exception from the general open records law, then the general open records law applies and a county can't prohibit the release of any voter registration data that is public record.  His legal analysis is right on the money.  Still the opinions of the PACs make clear that a county cannot choose to not adopt a policy in order to avoid the release of the data to candidates.

Yet that is exactly what the Election Board did today by a 2-1 vote.  Marion County Clerk Beth White argued passionately that the voter registration file needs to be made available to candidates in a non-discriminatory fashion and said the Board cannot refuse to exercise its responsibility to adopt a policy.  However, Republican board member P.J. Dietrick and Democratic board chairman Mark Sullivan disagreed.  Dietrick inaccurately suggested that fulfilling the requests for electronic voter information could lead to the disclosure of confidential information.  (It never has before.), Sullivan meanwhile feigned not having time to read and study the PAC opinion which he claimed to only have received at the meeting.  (In fact, Clerk White said she had previously emailed Sullivan a copy of the opinion as did Bowes.)  Sullivan wants time to review the law.  I'm sure that his review of the law will last until at least early May, which will make the information useless to the candidates challenging the slate in the primary.   It's just a big game to Dietrick and Sullivan. They do not care one bit that they're violating Indiana law.  They know if they at least delay release of the data until it's too late to do anything with it, the slated candidates will have a huge edge over the unslated candidates. 

Just when you think Marion County politics is as corrupt as it comes, it gets worse.  The county chairman, with their power on the wane and slating being challenged on all fronts, are pulling ever dirty trick in the book to remain in control of picking the candidates.  Stay tuned.  If the Board of Voter Registration and Election Board does not comply with the law very soon, a lawsuit is almost a certainty.


Jon E. Easter said...

If this came from the party, I could see the issue. The Election Board should give this information to everyone or no one. Bravo to Beth White for arguing the correct way on this.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Yes,bravo to Beth White for doing the right thing and for arguing that the Board follow the law and adopt a policy. It says "SHALL" adopt a policy.

Had Enough Indy? said...

The voter registration office should not get tax dollars for their operations, since it is obvious that they do the bidding of the parties. The parties better raise their slating fees to cover the million or so it takes to run voter reg.

Cato said...

What's the minimum required to run for office? What are the minimum fees, forms, etc. that must be filed to keep a candidate out of prison?

I know the Secretary of State, with their impossibly difficult rules and regulations on candidates, tries to throw anyone in jail who dares run for any office.

If you wanted to tank the party, you could simply flood the ballot with so many candidates that the slate would get lost.

Tough part is that decent people want no part of the political process or the deep personal risks that come from running from office.

Heck, now merely voting lands you in the pokey.

Chris H said...

I emailed the board to ask for a copy of the registration records and received this reply:
"I am writing in response to your recent public records request. Indiana Code 3-7-26-6(c) provides that a county voter registration office shall provide duplicate copies of voter registration information maintained on a computerized system in accordance with a "nondiscriminatory uniform policy adopted by the county election board." No such policy has been adopted by the Marion County Election Board. Consequently, we are unable to fulfill your records request until such time as the requisite policy is established."

These people should be ashamed of themselves. Good luck with the law suit.

Chris H.