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The Morning After

By PA

Fort Wayne Reader

2010-03-22


The Y2K Bug Survival Kit. Internet stocks in the late 90s. Jay Leno in prime time…

The common thread? They all seemed like good ideas at the time.

And for a few Indiana GOP office hopefuls, you might add “Operation Chaos” to the list.

Cast your mind back to the late spring and early summer of 2008, when two strong candidates for the Democratic presidential ticket were battling it out in a primary season that seemed like it might never end. It went on so long that they even came to Indiana, and our state found itself in the position of actually mattering in national presidential election year.

Back then, conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh had a nifty idea, and exhorted Republicans — who were perhaps tired of screwing up their own presidential hopes with ideological infighting — to sabotage the other party’s chances by voting in the Democratic primary. Between Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton, it was thought that Senator Clinton’s baggage — Whitewater! Monicagate! Pantsuits! — would make her a much more beatable candidate come November…

And thus “Operation Chaos” was born. Armed with a mission and moniker like something out of Ian Fleming or Frederick Forsyth (they called it “Operation Chaos” for crying out loud! Not “Operation Weasel” or “Operation Desperate”), Republicans in key states went all “fifth column” to vote for Clinton in the Democratic primaries.

But as any party-crasher knows, the morning after seems to hit the uninvited guest twice as hard. In Indiana, you are only eligible to run in the party primary you last voted in. In fact, it’s the law, and several GOP candidates have been challenged and removed from the primary ballot for registering as Democrats in the May 2008 primary.

To challenge a candidate, you have to be a registered voter within the jurisdiction, explains Andy Downs, the Democratic member of the Allen County Election Board. “When I have seen it, the challenge has come from a registered voter,” Downs says. “In the case of people who were bounced recently, they were challenged by registered Republicans who were eligible to vote in that particular election.”

(Ahhh, PA’s beady eyes well up a little bit when he thinks of that average-joe voter, selflessly vetting potential candidates not for any personal agenda, but out of pure civic duty… But we digress)

Though the Allen County Election Board makes the decision as to whether or not a challenged candidate gets bounced, the board itself only challenges over something really obvious, like if you’re not a registered voter. And any candidate that gets pulled from the ballot can appeal the decision. However… “In this case, there would be no point,” Downs explains. “The form is very specific.”

Indeed, the third item on the “Declaration of Candidacy for Primary Nomination” form, right after it asks you your name, says “I understand that my party affiliation is determined by which party I voted for in the last primary election in which I voted, or if I have not voted in a primary election, by my own affirmation. I understand that if I cannot meet the party affiliation requirement by either of those tests, I must obtain and file a certificate from the appropriate county chairman of the party indicating that I am a member of this political party.”

In other words, a letter from Steve Shine might have cleared everything up… at least in Allen County.

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