"We believe our candidates need to make sure they get the minimum signatures necessary to run for this office," said Indiana Democratic Party Chairman John Zody. "It's important we hold our candidates accountable and make sure they are meeting state law."
To earn a spot on the primary election ballot, a Senate candidate must gather the signatures of at least 500 certified registered voters in each of Indiana’s nine congressional districts.
Zody said county clerks certified 501 signatures in the First District for Young. Democrats then requested the signature sheets and counted them multiple times - coming up with only 498.
Five media outlets -- including The Journal Gazette -- joined together to conduct separate counts Wednesday morning of Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties certified signature sheets. They were compared with each other and matched, with 355 signatures in Lake; 120 in Porter and 22 in LaPorte.
That brings the total to 497 -- below the required amount.
The Indiana Election Commission will consider the challenge at its Feb. 19 meeting.
If Young is disqualified, that would leave U.S. Rep. Marlin Stutzman as the only Republican candidate for U.S. Senate following the withdrawal of Eric Holcomb on Monday to become lieutenant governor.
Stutzman began tweeting late Tuesday night, saying "498 is short of 500."
A statement by Stutzman Campaign Manager Josh Kelley also was posted, saying "Todd Young’s inability to gather sufficient signatures is a real concern to countless Republicans our team has spoken with today.”
He added that Young seems more focused on garnering establishment support in Washington, D.C., and raising money from corporate interests than in meeting with Hoosiers and engaging in a meaningful grassroots effort here in Indiana.
"Either Young is not focused, or he simply fails to connect with voters. Either way Young is not prepared to run a statewide campaign," Kelley said.
Candidate filings ended Friday. The Indiana Election Commission – two Democrats and two Republicans – will decide whether to consider and rule on such a challenge. In the past these challenges generally always result in a tie, and candidates are rarely removed from the ballot.
Zody said they will go through the process and see what the commission's findings are before deciding whether further legal action is necessary.
Young’s campaign dismissed Zody’s contentions.
“Todd Young has clearly met the requirements to be listed on the ballot,” campaign manager Trevor Foughty said in a statement. “Our campaign submitted more than enough ballot petition signatures in each congressional district. Further, clerks in all 92 counties verified the validity of those signatures. At this point, any attempt to disenfranchise voters would be unfortunate, underhanded, and ultimately unsuccessful.”
Young and Stutzman are contending for the Republican nomination for the seat from which GOP Sen. Dan Coats is retiring. It is no secret that Democrats prefer that Hill face the conservative Stutzman in the November general election.
In addition to beating Hill by 10 percentage points in their 2010 contest for a House seat representing southern Indiana, Young is easily the best-financed Senate candidate. He had raised more than $2.9 million in campaign contributions by the end of last year, compared with about $1.68 million for Stutzman and $676,000 for Hill.
Zody said they would have filed the same challenge against Stutzman if the numbers were close.