By Max Bomber
INDIANAPOLIS — Todd Young’s name will stay on the ballot after a lengthy Election Commission hearing, but that decision might be challenged in court.
Young is running for Republican U.S. Sen. Dan Coats’ seat. Coats is retiring at the end of his term.
During Friday’s hearing, attorneys from both the Indiana Democratic Party and Young’s Republican primary opponent, U.S. Rep. Marlin Stutzman, challenged Young’s ballot petition signature count.
By law, Senate candidates are required to gather 500 signatures from each of the nine congressional districts in the state. County clerks then verify the signatures.
The district in question was the 1st District, which consists of Lake and Porter counties, as well as part of LaPorte County. A report by the Indiana Election Division showed Young had 501 signatures in the 1st District. The county clerks entered the total number of verified signatures into a computer system to assemble the report. The system then generated the total.
A hand count of the paper petitions by TheStatehouseFile.com and multiple other media organizations found 497 signatures, which is one less than the Democratic Party’s count and four less than the government report.
But Young’s attorney, David Brooks, argued Friday the campaign had enough signatures after reviewing clerical errors.
“If we expect clerks and voter registration people to never make any mistakes, we are living in a dream world,” said Brooks.
Representation for the Democrats, Clay Patton, said Young’s campaign wanted the Commission to certify the names – a job that should be the responsibility of the county clerk.
The vote was split when it came to the committee, 2-2.
After the first challenge failed, the Indiana Democratic Party challenged the validity of eight more names.
Brooks called the challenge a “hyper-technical view of election law” and said the form confused the voter, which led to the problems.
The vote ended with another split decision, leaving the Chairman of the Indiana Democratic Party John Zody unhappy.
“Everyone needs to know Todd Young did not meet them minimum number of signatures by the deadline and his campaign admitted it tonight,” said Zody.
The Indiana Democratic Party could challenge the commission’s decision in court and said they will make their decision on their next move in the coming days.
“Today’s hearing showed two things – Todd Young thinks he’s above the law and it’s always someone else’s fault,” said Zody in a statement. “After numerous counts by the IDP, independent media sources and others, it was clear Todd Young ignored the law set by the Indiana Election Division, did not meet the threshold requiring at least 500 certified signatures from registered voters from each congressional district, and took zero responsibility for his error.”
Knocking Young off the ballot would likely help the Democrat’s candidate, Baron Hill.
With Eric Holcomb dropping out of the race to become Gov. Mike Pence’s nomination for the next lieutenant governor, U.S. Rep. Marlin Stutzman is the only other Republican in the primary. Stutzman has struggled to keep up with Young’s fundraising.
Max Bomber is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.