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The Journal Gazette

Saturday, August 18, 2018 1:00 am

Effort to remove Lawson from ballot fails

NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – The Indiana Election Commission on Friday voted unanimously to dismiss a challenge to Secretary of State Connie Lawson's ballot eligibility.

Republican member Zach Klutz said the basis of the challenge was “substantially similar if not identical” to one heard in July.

Democrat Trent Deckard, filling in for an absent member, agreed and said “this is serious business. This is removing someone from the ballot.”

Andrew Horning, on behalf of challenger Earle Benton Tackitt III, was trying to get new information into the record in the case, but the members found that information could have been offered in July but wasn't.

Horning filed the original challenge but was unable to attend that hearing. He said his fill-in didn't tell the commission everything Horning directed.

“I'm representing the Constitution,” he said.

Lawson was appointed secretary of state in March 2012 to fill out the term of Charlie White, who was removed after being convicted of felony voter fraud. She then was elected to the post in 2014 and is seeking another four-year term.

The Indiana Constitution allows someone to serve in the office for eight years in a 12-year span – meaning Lawson could serve only until 2020, halfway through her next term if she wins.

Lawson's attorneys argued that another provision of the Constitution says time served for a “pro tempore appointment” – or temporary – doesn't count toward that limit.

Horning said her candidacy hinges on the claim that her more than two-year appointment by then-Gov. Mitch Daniels was temporary. Horning said this is incorrect since Jerold Bonnet was the pro tempore secretary of state initially tapped by Daniels until Lawson became official more than a month later.

But Bonnet was not mentioned in the first hearing, Horning said.

The Indiana Election Commission is made up on two Republicans and two Democrats.

nkelly@jg.net