I wish I could tell you that the government researches each candidate’s qualifications to run for office and removes those ineligible, but I can’t.
In fact, voters are subjected to more scrutiny by government officials than candidates by a long shot. But that’s another topic for another day. . .
So, it’s up to individuals and parties to research candidates and file a challenge. And the deadline to do so is this Friday, February 12th at Noon.
Don’t expect to just call the Secretary of State or the local Clerk’s office and raise your challenge over the phone either. They can’t help, and they can’t do your work for you. In this case, the government will act as the “judge”, and you must act as the “prosecutor”, gathering evidence and putting on a case against the candidates.
- Party Affiliation
- Registered Voter
- Durational Residency
- Certifications & Degrees
- Felony Conviction
- Hatch Act Disqualifications
All candidates running for statewide, legislative or local office in Indiana must be registered voters, cannot have any felony convictions (unless expunged), and cannot be subject to the big or little Hatch Act. Most, but not all candidates must also be legal residents of the district they wish to represent, and some must also have lived in their district a certain amount of time.
You can look up the candidate requirements for each office here. Thanks to the Indiana Election Division, a bi-partisan office, for putting together these resources!
FREE DATABASES TO SEARCH
- Voter Registration Database
- Department of Local Government Property Tax Database
- Criminal Databases
For starters, pull the candidate’s voter registration record. It’s a public record!
Make sure the candidate is registered to at the address used on their declaration form, which is also a public record. You will likely have to go into the Circuit Court Clerk’s office, but some will email you the requested documents.
While you’re talking to the Clerk’s office, determine the candidate’s most recent primary vote history and determine if they are indeed a member of the political party they seek to represent, or have attached a document to their declaration form signed by the county chairperson indicating the candidate is a member in good standing with the party they are seeking to represent.
Anyone who’s worked a minute around elections will tell you that defeating a candidate on residency grounds is difficult. But there is a pretty cool database you can search to see if a candidate owns any real property, which is not in itself a requirement for most offices, but can be used as evidence pointing to where one resides. Residency issues are extremely complicated, but this is one place to start your research.
You might want to look into the candidate’s criminal background. You can search Indiana’s court databases for both civil and criminal cases here. And if you’re so inclined you can create an account and search the federal court databases as well here.
Federal law, called the Hatch Act, prohibits certain government employees from running for partisan political offices (hint, they can run for school board).
If the candidate in question works for the executive branch of the federal government or in a state/local government position in which their entire salary comes from federal funds, you have a couple of options. You can file a candidate challenge, as described below or file a complaint with the federal government. Read more about the Hatch Act, and the modernization act of 2012, which removed the prohibition from running for partisan offices for most state and local employees.
Finally, if your candidate is a state or local employee, you might want to check the ethics rules to see if running for partisan office is prohibited. The state ethics rules can be found here and the local rules by calling each locality.
The process for filing and trying a candidate challenge can be found on page 3 of the 2016 Indiana Candidate Guide. All challenges must be placed on the correct form, a CAN-1, which can be found in the appendix of the Candidate Guide.
You absolutely must ensure that the CAN-1 Candidate Challenge is filed with the appropriate entity no later than Noon, February 12th. I would recommend that you or another person hand-deliver the form to the appropriate entity (Secretary of State or Circuit Court Clerk).
Missing the filing deadline, using the wrong form, filling it our incorrectly or incompletely, or filing in the incorrect office will almost certainly guarantee that your challenge will NOT be heard, and the candidate will be permitted to remain on the ballot and even serve in office, depending upon the seriousness of the disqualification.
But wait, your job doesn’t end there. The challenger must appear at the hearing and persuade the government agency that the challenged candidate is indeed ineligible to run for or hold office.
If you believe a candidate is ineligible to run for or hold office, your best bet is to call an experienced election-law attorney to handle the challenge and represent the challenger at the hearing. But as all things in life, you are free to represent yourself.