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Experts say residency rules in Indiana too complicated

– Indiana’s complicated, often contradictory rules regarding registration for voters and political candidates need to be simplified to avoid situations like the one that led to last year’s ouster of Secretary of State Charlie White, members of a legislative panel and other officials said Thursday.

“In some cases, residency is almost a state of mind,” said Rep. Peggy Mayfield, a member of the Census Data Advisory Committee, which advises the Indiana General Assembly on possible legislative issues.

Leslie Barnes, an attorney who works with the Secretary of State office’s election division, said residency standards and deadlines for voters and candidates aren’t the same. Rules governing how long people must live in a precinct before they can vote there and whether candidates must live in the district they want to represent also differ, she said.

Even the definition of residency varies from one regulation to another, she said.

The issue of residency has surfaced in the careers of Indiana politicians such as former governor and U.S. Sen. Evan Bayh, former Sen. Richard Lugar, and most explosively, White, who was forced to resign as secretary of state after a jury found he registered to vote somewhere he didn’t live.

Barnes said the state’s rules should also better accommodate voters who move from one precinct to another. She suggested same-day registration might alleviate the problem.

Officials said disputes over residency requirements are often so complicated they have to be settled in court.

Sen. Jim Arnold said voters are so confused by current registration rules that they end up in “shoving matches” at the polls.

“Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a statute where we don’t have to rely on lawyers to tell us what they mean?” he asked.

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