The Marion County Election Board today voted 2-1 to strip Senator Richard Lugar and his wife of their eligibility to vote. The vote reportedly fell along partisan lines; two Democratic members voting for the motion to revoke the Lugars' registration, the lone Republican member voting against.
The six-term Republican US Senator has acknowledged his voter registration is linked to his former Indianapolis home which he sold decades ago. Lugar's current residence is in the Washington suburb of McLean, Virginia.
"Since Senator Lugar took office, he and Mrs. Lugar have scrupulously complied with Indiana law. The Lugars have also sought and followed the express direction of every legitimate government authority to have addressed the question," said Lugar spokesman Andy Fisher.
Lugar maintains he remains eligible to vote in Indiana based on the state constitution which reads: "No person shall be deemed to have lost his residence in the State, by reason of absence, either on business of the State or of the United States."
Additionally, three state Attorneys General have supported Lugar's Indiana residency first validated in an opinion by Attorney General Linley Pearson, back in 1982.
But in 1995 state election law was changed to define a candidate's residence as a "person's true, fixed, and permanent home...to which the person has...the intention of returning."
The Marion County Election Board ruled that because the Lugars had no connection to their former Indianapolis home, they abandoned their residence and their legal residency, causing their voter registration to be invalid.
The board additionally ruled the Lugars' continued voting since moving to Virginia was a non-criminal violation.
Not surprisingly, Lugar's primary and general election opponents have chimed in.
Christopher Connor spokesman for Republican primary challenger Richard Mourdock said, "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 US Senate."
The winner of the May GOP primary will face Democratic Congressman Joe Donnelly in November.
Today, Donnelly's campaign communications director Elizabeth Shappell flashed her boss' Hoosier roots, "Joe still lives in the house his father-in-law helped build almost 30 years ago. He thinks it is important that the people of Indiana have a U.S. Senator who is focused on them."
It's been suggested Lugar could regain his voting status in Indiana by simply establishing a new Indiana residence and re-registering.
Another avenue may be to appeal the Election Board decision in the Marion County Circuit Court.
Steve Brown is an author, radio broadcaster and seminary professor at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida.