Indiana Election Fraud: Is Corruption Contagious?

October 31, 2011

For release Nov. 2 and thereafter (680 words)

In St. Joseph County, the prosecutor is investigating claims that hundreds of signatures were forged on petitions to qualify Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton for the state presidential primary ballot in 2008.

In Jennings County, a grand jury last month indicted three Democratic Party campaign workers on 66 counts ranging from voter fraud to perjury. The charges involve absentee ballots and applications submitted in the 2010 elections.

In Clarksville, Police Chief Dwight Ingle is facing accusations he voted absentee this year from an address that belongs to somebody else.

And, as Hoosiers well know already, Secretary of State Charlie White, Indiana’s top elections official, continues to hold office while fighting felony voter fraud charges for listing his ex-wife’s address instead of his own in the May 2010 primary. He refused to step down despite calls to do so from top Republicans, including the governor.

Embarrassing doesn’t begin to describe these headlines. And there’s more.

Democratic State Chairman Dan Parker has questioned the legitimacy of signatures on ballot petitions used to qualify Republican John McCain for the presidential primary in 2008. He said reforms may be needed to protect the ballot petition process.

Republican State Chairman Eric Holcomb has called on Democrats to clean house, calling the South Bend petition scandal the tip of the iceberg.

Charlie White, who has little credibility to comment on anything election related while awaiting trial, has warned campaigns gathering ballot petition signatures for 2012 to expect extra scrutiny from local election officials between now and the primary.

As an Indiana citizen getting ready to vote in the Nov. 8 municipal election, I’d like to think our electoral system is above reproach. I’d like to think every vote is counted, every absentee ballot is authentic, every voter is properly registered, and every candidate has honestly earned his spot on the ballot.

It’s not so. From the ACORN national voter registration scandal in 2008 to the recent Indiana examples, it seems we’ve lowered our standards for what’s acceptable in the political arena. It’s baffling to me that people continue to attack Indiana’s voter ID law, which requires voters to produce identification to prove they are who they say they are.

Electoral fraud is no laughing matter. As one watchdog group has stated, “Left unchecked it will eventually undermine trust and confidence in the democratic process and by implication the electorate’s consent to the outcome of elections.”

This is why Charlie White should resign. One cannot lead the charge for clean elections while facing criminal charges himself. He must be above reproach. If anything, White’s refusal to step down may encourage others to cross the line and fudge on ballot petitions or registration addresses.

Dishonesty is contagious. Study after study has documented this fact.

Groundbreaking research in Norway on government corruption in 2000: “Corruption in high places is contagious to lower level officials, as these will follow the predatory examples of, or even take instructions from, their principals.”

A 2004 study of tax compliance: “If one firm evades excise taxes . . . its competitors also have to cheat, just in order to survive.”

A 2010 Greek study: “Empirically, there seems to exist an interdependence between agents’ behavior. Whenever they feel that other people are corrupt or that their burden is not fair compared to others, they choose to become more corrupt as well.”

Are some forms of corruption worse than others? Is forging one signature worse than forging 200? Is voting from an old address because you didn’t have time to change your registration less serious than registering a dead person?

It reminds me of the old question: Are some sins worse than others?

Ultimately, a culture that overlooks minor and innocent law violations will accommodate bigger and bigger ones until the system loses legitimacy. Look at Rome.

The standard should be “above reproach.” Dan Parker and Eric Holcomb should insist on it from their own people before calling the kettle black. And Charlie White should understand that – even if a court finds him innocent on felony charges – he fails to meet the standard expected of our top elections official.

Andrea Neal is an adjunct scholar of the Indiana Policy Review Foundation. She can be reached at © Copyright 2011 Andrea Neal. Distributed with permission for the use of member newspapers. All rights reserved.


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