Lugar Responds To Residency Issue For Voting In Indiana

A blog post yesterday by fellow blogger Paul Ogden questioning Sen. Richard Lugar's voting registration has brought a quick response from Sen. Lugar's campaign staff. Via Howey Politics, the campaign responded with this statement:

"Other than during his college days, Senator Lugar has only been absent from the State of Indiana for an extended period to serve in the military or to serve in the United States Senate, both with distinction. The Indiana Constitution and the United States Constitution clearly establish that an individual does not lose his or her residency in a state when an absence is due solely to service to the State of Indiana or to the nation. Additionally, the Indiana Code specifically provides that a person is not considered to have lost his or her residence in a precinct solely by virtue of being absent in service to Indiana or to the nation. Senator Lugar's last place of residence in Indiana prior to leaving to serve in the Senate remains his proper voting precinct according to Indiana law. Like every other Hoosier who has left the State of Indiana to serve his or her nation in time of war or in time of peace, Senator Lugar remains a Hoosier in the eyes of the law." Section 4 of the Indiana Constitution states, "No person shall be deemed to have lost his residence in the State, by reason of his absence, either on business of this State or of the United States." Voting qualifications in Section 2 states, "(a) A citizen of the United States who is at least eighteen (18) years of age and who has been a resident of a precinct thirty (30) days immediately preceding an election may vote in that precinct at the election. (b) A citizen may not be disenfranchised under subsection (a), if the citizen is entitled to vote in a precinct under subsection (c) or federal law. (c) The General Assembly may provide that a citizen who ceases to be a resident of a precinct before an election may vote in a precinct where the citizen previously resided if, on the date of the election, the citizen's name appears on the registration rolls for the precinct."
Lugar's press spokesman Mark Helmke prompted the issue being raised when he told a reporter last month Lugar lives in a hotel when he's back home in Indiana. According to Lugar's campaign staff, he is using the home at which he last resided as his registered voting address before his election to the Senate, a home he has long since given up. Lugar's staff cites Article 2, Section 4 of the Indiana Constitution as saving Lugar from losing residency in the state by virtue of his absence from the state while serving in the U.S. Senate. The Section 2 of that same article relied on by Lugar's staff has been interpreted to allow a person who no longer resides in a precinct to vote one last time at his old precinct after moving out of it. Thereafter, the person is expected to update is voting registration information with a current address. Accordingly, Lugar would have to rely exclusively on Section 4's language to allow him to use as a voting address a residence at which his own staff has acknowledged he no longer resides. Section 2 became a focus in the Charlie White vote fraud case. White relied on a voting address at which he no longer resided beyond the election following his move from that voting address, in addition to the fact that he actually resided in a precinct located outside the council district he represented on the Fishers Town Council.

UPDATE: The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette's Washington bureau reporter has picked up on the Lugar residency controversy first raised by his own staff's admission he lives in a hotel when he's back home. Lugar's staff produced to Brian Francisco a 1982 Attorney General's opinion to support his contention he does not need to maintain a residence in Indiana in order to maintain residency in the state:

Lugar’s Senate staff produced a 1982 letter from then-Indiana Attorney General Linley Pearson to Lugar that said, in part, “If such a person was entitled to vote in this state prior to departing for service in Congress, whatever residence that person possessed for voting purposes prior to such departure remains his or her residence. There is no requirement that such a person maintain a house, apartment, or any fixed physical location.”

Lugar lives in McLean, Va., a suburb of Washington. He owns a farm in Marion County.
Warsaw resident Monica Boyer, a member of tea party groups hoping to unseat Lugar, said in an interview: “Regardless of where he votes, wherever that is, we haven’t seen him in years. It’s been 13 years since he has been in Warsaw. His heart isn’t here.”

Lugar has been in the Senate since 1977. He is being challenged in the 2012 Republican primary election by state Treasurer Richard Mourdock.

Mourdock campaign spokesman Christopher Carter declined to comment on the residency question and Lugar’s response to it.

In February, a writer for the website RealClearPolitics reported that Lugar senior adviser Mark Helmke confirmed that Lugar stays in hotels when he is in Indiana.

Last week, a Hamilton County grand jury indicted Indiana Secretary of State Charlie White on felony charges of voter fraud and perjury. White is accused of voting in a precinct where he did not live.
Attorney General opinions are just that and don't carry the force of law. I believe other members of Indiana's congressional delegation have at least maintained a rented apartment or house to use as their voting address in the state even if they use their Washington home as their primary residence. Regardless of how this issue is resolved legally, Lugar loses simply because it brings home the point his critics maintain that he has become disconnected from the voters in his home state. The admission that he no longer has a residence in the state is all his opponents need for ammunition.