Lines drawn: Brown on ballot, Dems plan to sue
The Harrison County Election Board upheld its ruling to keep Republican county council at-large candidate Sherry Brown on the ballot, but the Harrison County Democrat party plans to fight the ruling in court.
Gordon Ingle attended the board meeting Thursday evening, held in the first floor courtroom of the Harrison County Court House in downtown Corydon, representing Democrat Central Committee chair Barbara Black, who was also in attendance.
Ingle said if the board didn’t reverse its decision to allow Brown on the ballot, the Democrats would sue the election board.
The board, however, maintained its position, with a 2-to-1 vote to keep Brown on the ballot. Brown’s proxy, Lori Davis, and board president Larry Shickles (Republican representative) voted in favor, while Edith Richards (Democrat representative) voted against keeping Brown on the ballot.
Brown originally signed up to run for one of the three Republican slots for the November General Election but decided to withdraw because she was worried about state legislation regarding elected officials and the jobs they could hold. She withdrew just before the deadline at noon on Feb. 13.
Then, a complaint was filed earlier this month by Mauckport resident Norman Dennison, stating that Brown’s withdrawal from the race was invalid because she could not acknowledge her own signature, which she did in her position as Circuit Court Clerk.
The complaint was accepted with a 2-1 vote (Richards against).
Brown said she was fine with the decision of the board and plans to campaign in the race ‘for the long haul.’
She said that, even before the appeal process, she began to regret the decision to withdraw because many people called or spoke with her and said they were disappointed with her decision to withdraw.
Black and the Democrat party filed a complaint about the decision shortly after the meeting, and the board held another meeting a few days later to discuss it further, but the decision was not changed.
About a week later, Republican county council at-large candidate Doug Harkness, of Palmyra, filed a complaint of his own that said Brown’s acknowledgment of her own signature to sign up as a candidate was invalid.
Harkness said he believed ‘strings were being pulled in the background’ to modify the democratic process.
Harkness addressed the election board about the complaint at last week’s meeting, but the complaint was dismissed because the deadline to contest a candidate filing passed in February.
Harkness said too much time had passed after Brown’s withdrawal for Dennison’s complaint, so Brown should not be on the ballot.
Both sides of the argument interpreted the Indiana Code to support their position. Shickles said there is no deadline, or at least it’s not specified, to contest the withdrawal of a candidate.
Harkness and Ingle said the deadline was 81 days before the primary election, which will be May 8, which had passed.
‘So, the only way to solve this is in court?’ Harkness asked.
Shickles said it appears so because he reads the code as saying all questions concerning the validity of a candidate are to be directed to the election board up until 68 days after the primary election.
‘I can tell you our side is going to court,’ Richards said.
‘I understand what you were doing and why you were doing it,’ she said to Harkness. ‘It’s unfair to you, the other candidates and the Harrison County voters.’
She called it an ‘injustice’ to allow Brown on the ballot.
Ingle also said Dennison’s complaint had to be under oath and it was not. He said the legal basis for upholding the withdrawal complaint was against the law and Brown should remain off the ballot.
He said if the decision was not reversed, they’ll make the courts decide. And, if it was deemed illegal what the election board did, Ingle said, it will end up costing the county money.
Richards made a motion to remove Brown from the ballot, but it died for lack of a second.
Shickles said he didn’t know if the election board had an option in the matter and it will have to be decided by a judge, not the election board.
‘I’m a firm believer in the law, but I also believe in democracy and the voters having a choice,’ Shickles said. ‘No one will be voted in in the May primary … let the voters be the ultimate election board.’
After the vote to keep Brown on the ballot (again a 2-1 vote), Ingle addressed the board and again asked about the deadline to appeal or contest a withdrawal.
‘You’ve not answered that question,’ Ingle said.
Shickles reiterated what he said earlier, that there wasn’t a deadline, or at least it’s not prescribed.
‘You’re not representing both sides, Gordon,’ Shickles said. ‘It’s not my job to listen to you or John Colin (Colin advised Black by sending a letter to the election board).’
The process of printing and sending military ballots began last week, with Brown’s name included on the Republican side, along with the names of Harkness, New Salisbury resident M.E. (Marion) Wallace and incumbent and Elizabeth resident Jim Heitkemper.
The Democrat county council at-large candidates are Elizabeth resident Sheila Bryant Best, Timothy S. Coffman, Gerald Saulman and Patricia A. (Pat) Wolfe, all of Corydon, Depauw resident and former councilmember Leslie June Robertson and incumbent Richard Gerdon of Corydon.
In other business last week, the election board reduced a fine for Commissioner Carl (Buck) Mathes from $1,000 to $250. Mathes was late turning in candidate paperwork. The board gave Mathes 30 days to pay it and will have to set up an account to collect fines, since it has never done so.
As of yesterday (Tuesday), Brown said no one has filed suit with the Circuit Court office regarding her name remaining on the ballot.