Indiana secretary of state's voter fraud trial starts

Indiana's top elections official is himself facing allegations of voter fraud.

Secretary of State Charlie White, a Republican, is in the unusual position of being the person entrusted to protect the integrity of the ballot box, while at the same time fighting seven felony charges involving allegations he registered to vote at his ex-wife's house and served as a local councilman when he actually lived outside the district.

Jury selection in White's trial is set to begin this morning at the Hamilton County Superior Courthouse, in Noblesville, Ind.

"We've always abided by the law," White told Fox News in an interview last November. Through a spokesman, he declined another interview on the eve of the trial.

White has claimed he spent four nights a week living at the home of his ex-wife, Nicole Mills, because his then-fiancee, and now wife, Michelle Quigley White, did not want them to live together until they were married. Mills' house was inside the Fishers Town Council district that White represented at the time, but he had purchased a condo outside of his district lines to live with his second wife.

White was indicted in March, accused of fraud, perjury, theft, voting in the wrong precinct, submitting a false voter registration change of address and casting a "false, fictitious or fraudulent ballot."

"Charlie White registered to vote at a place he didn't live. That was in contravention of the law," said Karen Celestino-Horseman, a lawyer for the Indiana State Democratic Party, which brought the allegations against White at the Indiana Recount Commission. "It was not his residence."

"Under Indiana law, when you register to vote you have to have the intent to make that your residence ... but he had already bought a condo," she told Fox News, saying the condo where he really intended to live with his new wife was not in the council district.

"By not registering outside the district, he was able to stay on the Fisher Town Council and receive $1,000 a month. If he had gone in and changed his registration officially, the Democratic members would have been notified that he had moved out of the district."

For White, it has been a dizzying journey that, at times, has seemed to leave his job hanging by the proverbial thread. But he has steadfastly maintained his innocence.

"I've abided by the same laws everybody else has abided by. I received a unanimous vote in support of my position from the Indiana Recount Commission, stating that everything I did was legal, and I made the right choices based on the same laws, the same legal precedents everybody else follows," White said in the November interview.

He was, in fact, backed by a unanimous decision from the bipartisan Indiana Recount Commission, which ruled in June that he "was qualified to run for the Office of Secretary of State" because he was registered in the state."

Commissioner Bernard Pylitt wrote, "It is not about Democrats versus Republicans, or a pending criminal case, despite efforts to make it so. It is about the application of the law."

But in December, Marion Circuit Court Judge Louis Rosenberg vacated the Commission decision, ruling White was ineligible to hold the office. Rosenberg ordered that the candidate who lost to White in the general election should take his place as secretary of state, a highly unusual ruling. Typically public office holders removed from their post are replaced by a gubernatorial appointment, an acting office holder, or a special election is held.

But in this case, the judge's order meant that Democrat Vop Osili, who White defeated by twenty points, 57 percent to 37 percent, should take the chair behind the desk in the secretary of state's office on the west side of the state's historic capital building.

But Rosenberg stayed his order earlier this month, stating White can keep his job until the appeals process is complete.

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, a Republican, has called on White to resign, something White says he will not do. White has told reporters he has the support of the people, and that his case was known to voters at the time he was overwhelmingly elected.

White will be removed from office under Indiana law if he is convicted on any of the felony charges.

Whatever happens, the case has already damaged the credibility of the election system, Democratic lawyer Celestino-Horseman said. "Having violated something as basic as the voter registration system does not build confidence in voters, regarding our electoral process."

White's attorney, Carl Brizzi, told reporters Monday morning that his client is "in great spirits. Obviously this has taken a great toll on him and his family, but there is one thing that he is and that is a warrior, and he’s no shrinking violet. He’s held up, I think, remarkably well."

Brizzi also referred to the ongoing voter fraud trial in Troy, N.Y. In that case, a slew of Democratic public officials and political operatives have been accused of stealing an election by faking absentee ballots. Eight Democrats were indicted, four pled guilty, and two are now on trial. Brizzi said "folks were actually trying to influence the outcome of elections, stuffing ballot boxes, intimidating voters, trying to disenfranchise people. That’s obviously not the case here, we’re talking about one vote."

Meredith Orban contributed to this report.