[Updated on April 6, 2022 at 12:30 p.m. On April 5, 2022, Judge Nathan Nikirk ruled on the case, denying Kinser’s claim that the state election commission had concluded incorrectly that she did not meet the two-year state residency requirement. That means Kinser’s name will not appear on the ballot. Those who have already voted will not have to vote again on a different ballot.]
Still not settled, after a Tuesday morning judicial hearing, is the Republican Party’s May 3 primary election ballot lineup for the District 62 seat in the Indiana legislature’s house of representatives.
The question to be decided: Should Myra Kinser’s name be added back to the ballot after the four-member state election commission decided at a Feb. 18, 2022 hearing to remove it, based on a residency challenge?
Two Republican candidates are definitely on the ballot for District 62: Dave Hall and Greg Knott.
A candidate for a state house seat in Indiana must have resided in the state for at least two years and in the house district for at least one year before the election.
Challenging Kinser’s candidacy, for allegedly failing to meet the two-year state residency requirement, was Amanda Lowery, who is Jackson County’s recorder. Here’s a YouTube video cued up to the spot during the Feb. 18 hearing, when Lowery’s challenge starts: Indiana EC 2022-02-18 hearing.
The vote by state election commissioners was 3–1 to remove Kinser’s name from the ballot.
Kinser has taken the step of asking for a review of the election commission’s decision. Presiding over the 9 a.m. Tuesday hearing, held at Monroe County’s Charlotte Zietlow Justice Center, was Lawrence County circuit judge Nathan Nikirk. He was assigned as a special judge in the case after Monroe County judges recused themselves.
On Tuesday, Nikirk did not rule from the bench.
But he did set out a timetable for next steps. By Friday (April 1), the assistant attorney general who argued the state election commission’s side on Tuesday morning, has to submit her response. Nikirk is giving the two sides the following week to put together their proposed findings and orders, which they have to submit by the following Friday (April 8).
Nikirk said he would work over the weekend to try to come up with a ruling by Monday (April 11).
But based on arguments from the two sides and Nikirk’s statements on Tuesday morning, even if Nikirk finds in favor of Kinser, under the Administrative Orders and Procedure Act (AOPA), he won’t be able to order her name placed back on the ballot. That would have to be done by the state’s election commission, after Nikirk either remands the case back to the commission or else compels the commission to act.
The timeline is tight for settling the issue of who’s on the ballot.
The deadline for sending out absentee ballots to those who had previously requested them has already passed: March 19. In Monroe County, that means about 120 ballots have already been printed and sent out to voters, Monroe County deputy clerk Tressia Martin told The B Square. Martin attended Tuesday morning’s hearing.
District 62 also includes parts of Brown and Jackson counties, so election operations there are impacted as well.
Early in-person voting starts on April 5—six days ahead of Nikirk’s timetable for his ruling.
For early voting, by mail or in-person, ballots are printed locally for each voter “on-demand” as one-offs.
If the ballot changes after some of those absentee or in-person early voting ballots are cast, the old ballots (without Kinser’s name) would not be used to tally the results. Those voters would have another chance to cast the new ballot. Deputy clerk Martin told The B Square that even though that’s logistically possible, voters would chalk that up to a mistake by the county’s election division. She wants to avoid that as much as possible.
Martin indicated she does not have an opinion about whether Kinser should be on the ballot. But Martin would like a prompt decision.
Not yet printed are the roughly 74,000 ballots (46,000 for Democrats and 28,000 for Republicans) for Election Day on May 3. Election supervisor Karen Wheeler told The B Square she’s in constant contact with Hart InterCivic, which is Monroe County’s election equipment vendor, and which prints the ballots.
Under normal circumstances, Wheeler said, the ballots would have already been printed and she would have already sorted them, and set them up, ready for Election Day.
Wheeler doesn’t want to risk printing the ballots before a decision that puts Kinser back on the ballot, because the cost is around $30,000. If the ballots for Election Day are printed without Kinser’s name, and the election commission eventually puts her name back on the ballot, that would waste $30,000, she said.
Voters in the Democratic Party’s District 62 primary will choose between Penny Githens and Brad Swain. Githens currently serves on the 3-member board of Monroe County commissioners. Swain currently serves as Monroe County sheriff.
The geographic coverage of District 62 changed after redistricting, which in part accounts for why the primaries for both parties are contested. The geo-political change was significant enough that District 62 incumbent Republican Jeff Ellington announced on Oct. 20 last year that he’d be changing his residency to Bloomfield.
That means Ellington is eligible to run in the new District 45, which includes Greene, Sullivan, and parts of Daviess, Knox and Vigo counties.
Ellington also faced a residency challenge in front of the election commission on Feb. 18. But he prevailed in that decision. Ellington’s wife, Hope Ellington, attended Tuesday morning’s hearing.