Local Democratic Party won’t contest District 6 Bloomington council election outcome now, leaves door open to future action

Monroe County Democratic Party chair David Henry has confirmed to The B Square that he has not filed a petition under Indiana election code objecting to the outcome of the May 2 primary.

The primary made David Wolfe Bender the party’s nominee for the Bloomington District 6 city council seat in the Nov. 7 municipal election.

The deadline for a party chair to file a petition objecting to the result was noon on Friday (May 19).

The deadline came 23 hours after the election board convened a hearing on the question of Bender’s residency in the district.

The election board voted unanimously to refer to the county prosecutor potential felony charges involving a potential misrepresentation of Bender’s residency on his candidate filing forms. [.pdf of document forwarded to prosecutor and AG]

But in a separate action, the three-member board voted 2-1 to refer to the state attorney general the matter of possible action involving Bender’s eligibility as a candidate.

Thursday’s election board action factored into Henry’s decision, as party chair, not to file a petition. By making its referral to the attorney general, Henry said that the election board had asked the AG to do the same thing that he, as party chair, would have asked a court to do. Continue reading “Local Democratic Party won’t contest District 6 Bloomington council election outcome now, leaves door open to future action”

Referred by election board to county prosecutor, state attorney general: Residency questions about District 6 Bloomington city council candidate

David Wolfe Bender’s name was the only one that appeared on the May 2 Democratic Party’s primary for the Bloomington city council’s District 6 seat.

So Bender is currently the party’s nominee for that council position. All other things being equal, he will appear on the Nov. 7 ballot as the party’s nominee.

But on Thursday, Monroe County’s three-member election board voted unanimously to refer two potential felony election law violations by Bender to county prosecutor Erika Oliphant. The vote came after a hearing that lasted around an hour and 20 minutes.

It was election board member John Fernandez who made the motion to refer the matter to the prosecutor, saying, “I just think we ought to, frankly, just move this process along—without any kind of prejudice one way or another.”

Fernandez added that he wanted to “go ahead and recommend this over to the prosecutor’s office so that they can make that judgment and let this young man get on with his life, if that’s the determination.”

The hearing had been scheduled  after an Indiana Daily Student (IDS) article was published on Feb. 17, 2023, which questioned whether Bender actually lived in District 6: “City Council candidate David Wolfe Bender is running in District 6, residents say he doesn’t live there

It was based on that article, that GOP county vice chair William Ellis filed a complaint with the election board. Continue reading “Referred by election board to county prosecutor, state attorney general: Residency questions about District 6 Bloomington city council candidate”

New twist in District 6 Bloomington city council residency question: Bender fires attorney, says he wants to tell his story

In a letter received by Monroe County’s legal department on Thursday (April 6), David Wolfe Bender says he does not plan to resign as the Democratic Party’s nominee for Bloomington’s District 6 city council seat after the May 2 primary.

That’s a course reversal for the Indiana University student, whose eligibility as a candidate was subject of a complaint made by William Ellis, who is vice chair of the Monroe County Republican Party.

Ellis’s complaint was based on an Indiana Daily Student (IDS) article published on Feb. 17, 2023: City Council candidate David Wolfe Bender is running in District 6, residents say he doesn’t live there.

Bender had previously said—through his Taft-Jaffe attorney—that he intends to withdraw as the Democratic Party’s nominee after the May 2 primary. His name appears on the ballot as the sole candidate for the District 6 nomination, because no challenge to his eligibility was made in a timely way.

No Republican declared a primary candidacy for District 6 city council.

But Bender’s April 6 letter says, “I write this letter to clearly communicate that I no longer intend to withdraw my candidacy from this election.” Bender’s letter continues, “If the voters see fit to elect me as the next Councilmember for Bloomington’s Sixth District, then I believe I am fully able, willing, and indeed eager to serve.”

Highlights of the letter include the fact that Bender is willing to appear at the May 18 hearing  that the election board has set to investigate the question of his residency.

The most recent action by the board is to clarify that the issues they’re examining involve the possible commission of felonies by Bender. Continue reading “New twist in District 6 Bloomington city council residency question: Bender fires attorney, says he wants to tell his story”

Focus on felonies: Election board revises list of laws for hearing on Bloomington Dem’s residency

At its meeting last week, Monroe County’s election board voted to set a hearing for May 18 on the matter of Democrat David Wolfe Bender’s residency, as a Bloomington city council candidate for District 6.

This week on Friday, the board revised the list of specific Indiana state election laws that it wants to cite for its determination “that there is substantial reason to believe an election law violation has occurred.”

A list of four statutes that the board had previously cited was revised to two different laws that are the basis of the board’s determination:

IC 3-14-1-13 Filing fraudulent reports

IC 3-14-3-1.1  Procuring or submission of false, fictitious, or fraudulent registration application; procuring, casting, or tabulating false, fictitious, or fraudulent ballot

Both are Level 6 felonies.

The board’s investigation into Bender’s residency, is based on a complaint that was made by William Ellis, who is vice chair of the Monroe County Republican Party.

Ellis’s complaint was based on an Indiana Daily Student (IDS) article published on Feb. 17, 2023. The headline to the IDS piece describes the basic idea of the complaint: City Council candidate David Wolfe Bender is running in District 6, residents say he doesn’t live there.

Bender has indicated to the board through his legal counsel that he intends to withdraw as the Democratic Party’s nominee after the primary election. He’s the only candidate on the ballot, so there’s no question he will be the nominee. Continue reading “Focus on felonies: Election board revises list of laws for hearing on Bloomington Dem’s residency”

District 6 Bloomington Democrat’s residency: Election board sets May 18 hearing, no subpoenas

A hearing on the matter of Democrat David Wolfe Bender’s residency, as a Bloomington city council candidate for District 6, has now been set by Monroe County’s election board for May 18.

The three-member board set the date on a unanimous vote taken at its Thursday meeting.

The date falls roughly two weeks after the May 2 primary election, which will undoubtedly make Bender the District 6 city council nominee for the Democratic Party. He’s the only candidate on the ballot.

But Bender previously conveyed through his attorney, an intent to withdraw as the District 6 nominee: “David [Wolfe Bender] has decided to withdraw his candidacy for Bloomington Common Council District 6.”

Bender’s name will appear on the primary ballot, because the questions about his residency, which were raised by an Indiana Daily Student article published on Feb. 17, 2023, did not come to light until after the Feb. 10 deadline for challenges to be made.

Assuming Bender does withdraw as the nominee after the primary, the Democratic Party could place an alternate candidate on the November 8 city election ballot.

After the May 18 hearing, the board could refer the matter to the county prosecutor, who could then decide whether to bring charges. Continue reading “District 6 Bloomington Democrat’s residency: Election board sets May 18 hearing, no subpoenas”

A decision to withdraw: Democratic Party city council candidate under investigation over residency

“David [Wolfe Bender] has decided to withdraw his candidacy for Bloomington Common Council District 6.”

That’s the opening line of a letter received by Monroe County’s election board from Bender’s attorney, Manny Herceg, with the Taft-Jaffe law firm.

An Indiana University student, Bender is the sole Democrat for District 6 who appears on the May 2 primary election ballot. District 6 is centered around the university campus and downtown—its entire area is north of 3rd Street.

The letter was read aloud by Monroe County clerk Nicole Browne at Thursday afternoon’s meeting of the three-member election board.

The board’s meeting this Thursday was a continuation of its meeting last week, when the board started an investigation into whether Bender’s candidacy broke any election laws.

The investigation was based on a complaint made by vice chair of the Republican Party, William Ellis, which in turn was based on an Indiana Daily Student article published on Feb. 17, 2023.

The headline to the IDS piece describes the basic idea of the complaint: City Council candidate David Wolfe Bender is running in District 6, residents say he doesn’t live there.

The election board did not decide much on Thursday, but did make some incremental progress, and agreed to resume meeting on the topic in two weeks, on March 23. Continue reading “A decision to withdraw: Democratic Party city council candidate under investigation over residency”

Residency of District 6 Bloomington city council candidate to be investigated by election board

The first step of a formal investigation into the residency status of Bloomington city council candidate David Wolfe Bender has now been taken.

At its regular meeting on Thursday, the three-member Monroe County election board voted unanimously on a motion that concluded that there is enough reason to believe that an election law has been violated, to set a hearing “at the earliest possible time” after witnesses have been notified they have to appear.

The board was acting Thursday on a complaint brought by Monroe County Republican Party vice chair William Ellis, which was based on an Indiana Daily Student article published on Feb. 17, 2023.

The headline to the IDS piece describes the basic idea of the complaint: City Council candidate David Wolfe Bender is running in District 6, residents say he doesn’t live there.

As a practical matter, the Feb. 10 deadline for withdrawing from the primary has passed. That’s also the deadline for someone to challenge a candidate’s residency claim.

So Bender will appear on the ballot as the sole candidate for the Democratic Party’s nomination for District 6 city council, which means he will win the primary election. Continue reading “Residency of District 6 Bloomington city council candidate to be investigated by election board”

Chatbot vs. Bloomington candidates for city office

With each election cycle, the League of Women Voters hosts a website with candidate profiles. It’s called Vote 411.

Chatbot icon with text: As an AI language model, I cannot seek elected office in the city of Bloomington, Indiana.

Included below are links to all the LWV profiles for all candidates in Bloomington’s city primary elections—for mayor, clerk, and city council.

The Vote 411 profiles include the answers that candidates have written to questions posed by LWV.

What if the same questions were posed to a chatbot that has been trained on a giant corpus of text, to respond to conversational prompts?

The B Square posed the LWV’s questions to ChatGPT, which is an artificial intelligence chatbot developed by a company called OpenAI. It was released late last year. (GPT stands for Generative Pre-training Transformer.)

The LWV questions were given minor tweaks, like swapping in “Bloomington, Indiana” for “the city” to give ChatGPT a shot at providing answers that reflect the unique circumstances of Bloomington.

Another tweak: In places where the LWV questions use the second-person pronoun “you,” some kind of passive voice construction was swapped in. That’s because ChatGPT tends to respond with a disclaimer of sorts when asked about itself. For example, “As an AI language model, I have never tasted maple syrup, …”

Readers are invited to use ChatGPT as a kind of baseline, to judge the answers given by candidates. Is a given candidate’s answer better than a chatbot’s? Continue reading “Chatbot vs. Bloomington candidates for city office”