By Robert Annis and Mary Beth Schneider, INDYSTAR.COM
NOBLESVILLE, Ind. -- Almost as soon as he was indicted on seven felony charges Thursday afternoon, pressure began mounting for Secretary of State Charlie White to step aside, with people in both parties -- including Gov. Mitch Daniels -- saying it's wrong for Indiana's top elections official to serve under the cloud of alleged voter fraud, theft and perjury.
White's immediate reaction: No.
"I believe the evidence will prove that I did not intentionally break any laws. But more importantly, I will continue to do the job I was elected to do," he said in a statement issued shortly after he was booked at the Hamilton County Jail.
A Hamilton County grand jury indicted White on three counts of voter fraud alleging he lied about his address when he voted in last year's Republican primary. He also faces charges of perjury and fraud on a financial institution -- again, for allegedly lying about his address -- as well as theft for continuing to collect his salary as a Fishers Town Council member after moving from his designated district.
White has explained his actions as mistakes made in the heat of his 2010 campaign for secretary of state.
Dan Sigler, one of two special prosecutors chosen because of White's political affiliations in Hamilton County, countered that White willfully deceived voters and the town of Fishers.
"The grand jury indicted him not because of an honest mistake, but for a willful violation of the law," Sigler said. "He did it to hold on to his council seat.
"I don't think the grand jury indicted him to make an example of him. Whether you're a state official (or a common citizen), we're all held to the same standards. Everyone's treated the same."
Only a felony conviction would require White to lose his elected position -- and it doesn't appear there is anything the governor, the legislature, the party or the voters can do to strip him of the office in the meantime.
Still, White faced plenty of pressure Thursday to resign or temporarily step aside.
In a statement Thursday afternoon, Daniels said the "only course of honor" is for White to step aside, at least until a verdict is reached. And, he added in his statement, every other statewide officeholder -- all, like White, Republicans -- agreed.
"It would be neither credible nor appropriate," Daniels said, "for the state's top elections official to continue to perform his duties while contesting criminal charges, some of them under the very laws the secretary of state implements."
The whole sorry spectacle was one that Daniels had tried to avoid.
Democrats raised the issue in the campaign, but White won easily over Democrat Vop Osili and Libertarian Mike Wherry.
Sources confirmed to The Indianapolis Star that in December, Daniels urged White not to take office as secretary of state until these charges could be resolved. White refused.
Instead, White was sworn in with the other officeholders in a Statehouse inauguration Jan. 6, insisting to reporters that "I did not commit voter fraud."
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