Political Notebook

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Lugar voting questioned

Sen. Richard Lugar's voting habits and residency might be getting a fresh look after a complaint was filed with the Indiana Election Commission last week.

A number of political blogs have reported that tea party enthusiast Greg Wright filed an election fraud complaint against Lugar and his wife, Charlene.

Wright alleges that the senator and his wife may have committed multiple felonies for voting in a Marion County precinct, using an address for a home they do not own.

The issue of voter fraud has gotten more attention since a special prosecutor filed felony charges early this year against Secretary of State Charlie White for voting at the wrong precinct.

Those criminal charges are still pending.

Wright's complaint appears to be largely focused on the address Lugar is using on his absentee ballot rather than whether Lugar maintains residency for a re-election run.

Lugar's campaign addressed the allegations in March, saying Indiana law "provides that a person is not considered to have lost his or her residence in a precinct solely by virtue of being absent in service to Indiana or to the nation. Senator Lugar's last place of residence in Indiana prior to leaving to serve in the Senate remains his proper voting precinct according to Indiana law."

Lugar's Senate staff produced a 1982 letter from then-Indiana Attorney General Linley Pearson to Lugar that said, in part, "If such a person was entitled to vote in this state prior to departing for service in Congress, whatever residence that person possessed for voting purposes prior to such departure remains his or her residence. There is no requirement that such a person maintain a house, apartment, or any fixed physical location."

Lugar lives in McLean, Va., a suburb of Washington. He also owns a farm in Marion County.

Indiana Election Commission Chairman Dan Dumezich – a Republican – said he hasn't seen the complaint yet. Usually the Republican and Democratic co-directors have to agree to move a complaint forward before it comes to the commission.

Democrat co-director Trent Deckard said he would recommend the commission look at the complaint.

But Republican co-director Brad King said the two men would need to review the facts before deciding whether to dismiss or move the allegations forward.

If it does make it to the commission, it is unclear what they can do.

The four-member panel – two Republicans, two Democrats – doesn't have criminal jurisdiction. The commission could forward the case to the Marion County prosecutor, but he would still have discretion on filing charges.

Lugar faces State Treasurer Richard Mourdock in the U.S. Senate primary next year.

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