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Indiana election panel clears path for Pence

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The sole challenger to U.S. Rep. Mike Pence for the Republican nomination to become Indiana's next governor was ruled ineligible Friday because he was a mere 14 signatures shy of the number required to make the ballot.

The Indiana Election Commission voted 3-1 to remove businessman Jim Wallace from the May primary ballot because he did not collect enough certified signatures from registered voters in the 7th District. Under state law, candidates must collect a set number of signatures from each of the state's congressional districts.

Although more than 1,200 signatures were submitted from that district to Marion County election officials, the county ruled many of them ineligible and determined Wallace was 14 names short. Commission members sided with the county.

"I'm not convinced you got 500 signatures in the 7th District. The law says you've got to have 500," commission Chairman Dan Dumezich said shortly before voting.

Wallace said after the vote that he would explore all his options, including challenging the ruling in court. Wallace, who lives in Fishers, argued that he had enough signatures and that Marion County's voter registration lists were out dated.

"Reasonable doubt must be resolved in favor of the voter," he unsuccessfully argued, citing the state law governing when signatures should be rejected or accepted.

The ruling means Pence, a six-term congressman, is the only Republican running to replace Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels, who is term-limited. Pence spokesman Matt Lloyd declined to comment on the commission ruling Friday.

The GOP primary is in May. The other gubernatorial candidates are Democrat John Gregg and Libertarian Rupert Boneham.

Wallace's supporters submitted all their collected signatures to Marion County elections officials a few weeks ago, but then asked for them back to review. They later resubmitted the signatures with some added addresses and additional information not originally on the forms in an attempt to get them accepted, which isn't allowed, attorney Tom John told the commission.

John is the lawyer for Daniels' former top aide, Mitch Roob, who originally contested Wallace's candidacy with the state. Roob is the former secretary of economic development.

Charlene King, a deputy in the Marion County Board of Voter Registration, also testified during the hearing. She said that in one case, the original signature submitted on Wallace's behalf did not include an address, but was later re-submitted by the Wallace campaign with an address added onto it.

"In addition to many of the other issues we have barely scratched, this shows the lack of clean hands which would promote any sort of leniency for this candidate," John said. "Mr. Wallace should not be on the ballot for 2012."

The commission also voted Friday to deny challenges against Republican presidential contender Rick Santorum and U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar. It also denied a far-flung challenge to President Barack Obama's eligibility to appear on the ballot by a group that alleges the president isn't an American citizen.