INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana's top elections official defended himself Tuesday against voter fraud allegations that could cost him his job, detailing a personal life fraught with the rigors of a campaign trail that often forced him to live out of his car and sleep at his ex-wife's home.
Secretary of State Charlie White bristled at some questions as he testified before a state panel that will decide whether to invalidate his November election. The primary allegation against the Republican is that he used his ex-wife's address on a voter registration form for the May 2010 primary even though he had a condo with his fiancée.
The Indiana Democratic Party has pushed for months for a special investigation. Democrats argue he was ineligible to run because he fraudulently registered to vote and allege he intentionally skirted state law to keep his seat on the Fishers Town Council in suburban Indianapolis, since his condo wasn't in the district he represented.
White also faces an August trial on criminal voter fraud and perjury charges stemming from the same allegations.
White insisted Tuesday that the allegations ignore a complicated personal life in which he was trying to raise his 10-year-old son, plan his second marriage and campaign for the state's top elections job.
He said he had no intention of moving into the condo until after he remarried, saying the wedding had been set for March 2010 until campaign pressures pushed it to that May.
"There was no reason to register to vote there until I was living there full time," White testified before the Indiana Recount Commission, which will decide whether to invalidate his election and force his removal from office.
Instead, he and his current and former wives said, White lived out of his car much of the time. When he did sleep in a bed, it was most often at his ex-wife's home while his then-fiancée lived in the condo with her 13-year-old daughter.
White's ex-wife, Nicole Mills, acknowledged that her relationship with her ex-husband was "atypical." They divorced in 2006.
"There's a relationship that people just don't understand," she said. "He is my family, still."
White's current wife, Michelle Quigley-White, echoed that sentiment by saying that she "always viewed Nicole as a family member ... she's the mother of his son."
White also claimed that he didn't realize his address would affect his town council seat, because he was an at-large member.
White's attorney, James Bopp, said Democrats were trying to help prosecutors make their criminal case. Bopp introduced bank, tax and other documents Tuesday showing White claimed his ex-wife's home as his residence from January through May 2010.
Democratic attorney Karen Celestino-Horseman said White's use of his ex-wife's address was simply "a mail drop." She questioned White pointedly about his purchase of the condo after he moved out of his ex-wife's home in 2009, asking him repeatedly whether he had been truthful about his address on various documents.
"I did not provide false information," White said.
Bopp acknowledged that his client listed his ex-wife's address as his mailing address and his new condo as his physical address on a Republican Party document filed in June 2010. White said he "just wanted to be honest."
White also claimed that most town council members were under the impression they didn't have to remain in the district from which they were elected unless they wanted to run again.
Tuesday's hearing came a day after a judge denied White's request to bar prosecutors from using his testimony before the commission during his criminal trial. A conviction on any of the seven criminal counts against him would be enough to oust him from office and possibly put him in jail.
The recount commission is expected to rule June 30.