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Indiana's Top Election Official Convicted of Voter Fraud

The New England Patriots weren't the only losers on Super Bowl weekend in Indiana.

With much of the world focused on Indianapolis hosting the big game, a local jury on Saturday convicted Indiana Secretary of State Charlie White on six felony counts, including theft and voter fraud — a crime he was supposed to prevent as the state's top election official.

White, a Republican, was accused of lying about his home address on voter registration forms in order to continue receiving a stipend for serving on his town's council. To comply with state law requiring the removal of convicted felons from office, Gov. Mitch Daniels, a fellow Republican, appointed White's deputy as an interim replacement.

The irony is that White has been an outspoken defender of controversial voter identification laws, which are purportedly aimed at stamping out the kind of fraud he was found guilty of committing.

Voter ID laws have been a favored initiative of Republican lawmakers in many states. Opponents, mainly Democrats and voting rights advocates, say voter fraud is rare and that the true intent of the laws is to suppress voter turnout.

Indiana has played a pivotal role in the matter because its own voter ID law survived an important challenge when it was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2008.

Predictably, critics of voter ID laws are crowing. ThinkProgress.org's Josh Israel pushed back on the claim that voter ID laws prevent election fraud:

"Though actual cases of voting fraud are so rare that a voter is much more likely to be struck by lightning than to commit fraud at the polls, one Republican official in Indiana has proved that lightning can strike himself."

White has denied any wrongdoing. In his first public response to the verdict, he told Fox News the prosecution failed to provide the jury with full instructions. He also called the verdict a "travesty" and a "perversion":

"I found out that Indiana is a land of men and not of law...What I think happened yesterday was a total miscarriage of justice and a perversion. The law allows me to do everything I did and the jury did not get all the law."

The Indianapolis Star reports White is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 23 and that each count carries a term of six months to three years.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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