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All's Well That Ends Well? New Indiana SoS Has Long Background in Elections

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[Image courtesy of Indiana Public Media]

Regular readers of this blog have followed the long-running dispute (1 | 2 | 3) in Indiana over the fate of the Secretary of State's office after the felony convictions of former Secretary Charlie White. electionlineWeekly's Mindy Moretti had this profile of the Hoosier State's new chief state election official.

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels has appointed state Sen. Connie Lawson to serve as the Hoosier State's 61st secretary of state following the felony convictions of former secretary Charlie White.

Only the second woman to serve in the role of secretary, Lawson had served in the state Senate since 1996 including tenures as Majority Floor Leader and chair of the elections committee.

Before being elected to the Senate, Lawson served as the Hendricks County clerk.

"Connie's was the first name I thought of, and there was never really a rival. Look at her credentials for this job; look at her reputation for legislative integrity...," Daniels said at a press conference announcing the appointment. "She's well regarded on both sides of the aisle. I don't know a single legislator in either party who doesn't think well of Connie."

Former Indiana Secretary State and current U.S. Representative Todd Rokita sang Lawson's praises.

"At every turn during my eight years as secretary of state, Connie was instrumental in helping us cross the legislative hurdles so we could make solid, common-sense elections reforms like the voter ID law, statewide voter registration system, online voter registration and the vote center option we made available to Indiana counties," Rokita said in the release.

Lawson's appointment ends a tumultuous time for the top elections job in Indiana.

Former Secretary of State Charlie White was elected in 2010 but was removed from office this year after being convicted of six felonies including voter fraud. Following his conviction, state Democrats said that Vop Osili, White's opponent in 2010 should be named secretary of state arguing that White was never eligible to run in the first place.

The Indiana Supreme Court disagreed with that argument which led to Daniels' appointment of Lawson.

But, despite turmoil at the top, local elections officials have been plugging away throughout the entire ordeal.

"The framework for running elections is statutory and every county continued to have access to the co-directors of the Indiana Election Division, so no, our preparations were not adversely affected by this situation," said Beth White, Marion County clerk. "The biggest impact on election administrators this cycle will be the redistricting due to the census."

According to the Indianapolis Star, Charlie White had been accused of being dismissive of the secretary's elections functions saying that the elections are really run by the counties.

Marion County's Beth White hopes Lawson will bring a different perspective to the office.

"Secretary Lawson is a former county clerk, and I hope she'll bring that perspective to the office. I have known her in capacity as a State Senator on the Elections Committee in the Indiana General Assembly.  I wish her well as she transitions into this new leadership role," Beth White said.

Lawson already seems to be proving her elections proponents right. One of the first meetings she took as secretary of state was with the co-director of the elections division to discuss the state's voter database.

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