County Attorney Jim Clevenger participated in Wednesday’s Marshall County Election Board meeting where a hearing was held for the candidate challenge of Daniel R. Holmes, a Republican who filed for Precinct Committeeman in German 4.

From the information provided, Daniel Holmes sent his form through the mail, and it was received in the County Clerk’s Office prior to the Friday deadline, but the clerk didn’t open the mail until Monday.  At the close of business on Friday the ballot was released to the media and Daniel Holmes’ name was not on the ballot. The Indiana Election Division was notified of the oversight and an amendment was sent to the Secretary of State’s office to add Mr. Holmes to the candidate list.  On Monday the election division in Marshall County sent out a revised ballet with Holmes’ name on it.   

Yesterday’s meeting was conducted in the County Clerk’s Office and was open to the public.  Jim Clevenger served as the hearing officer and Election Board members attending were Susie Keighbaum, Brian Howard who was the proxy for Jenny Bennitt County Clerk and Jon VanVactor who is a proxy for Adam Lukenbill who is on vacation.  Mr. Holmes did not attend the meeting. 

Witnesses sworn in to speak during the hearing were Jessie Bohannon, John Bohannon, Bill Githens, Tim Harman and Clerk Jenny Bennit. 

Clevenger said the County Clerk submitted an affidavit to establish a factual basis for the proceedings on Wednesday. 

Clevenger said there were two issues raised as a result of the affidavit, but the first thing the election board needed to decide was a determination of standing.

The determination requires the challenger to be a registered voter in the election district (German 4). Mr. Bohannon filed the challenge and is a registered voter in Precinct 2 of Union Township in Marshall County. The attorney said under Indiana Law, an individual who challenges the qualifications of a candidate for election to an office must be a registered voter of the election district the candidate seeks to represent.

The election board’s first consideration in the hearing was to determine whether Mr. Bohannon had standing in the challenge.

Mr. Bohannon didn’t dispute that he did not have a right to the hearing on Wednesday.  He cited the Indiana Code which stated the Election Board has the discretion to investigate the matter and he requested they do that.  Jesse’s father, John Bohannon, who attended the meeting is a registered voter in the district and Jesse said if the Clerk’s Office had told them they could have filed the challenge from this father who is in the district.   

Tim Harman disagreed with Bohannon and said he believed Bohannon did have a standing on the matter.  He quoted the administrator’s manual and said there are 7 exceptions, and one would have fit for Jesse Bohannon’s challenge.

The hearing officer said the challenger had to be from the voting district or the County Clerk for the exceptions and disagreed with Harman’s interpretation.  He told Harman it was a decision of the local election board.      

Brian Howard, standing in for Bennitt said with the challenger not being from the precinct, he considered it as invalid. Jon VanVactor, proxy for Adam Lukenbill agreed with Howard and said the challenge is null and void.  Election Board member, Susie Keighbaum agreed with both comments.  The motion was made to dismiss the challenge and unanimously approved.

At that point Jesse Bohannon asked, “In light of the evidence, you all are choosing not to have a hearing today even though it is at your discretion to have a hearing?”   Hearing officer Clevenger said, “That’s what they decided.”  Bohannon said, “I have provided all the emails that went back and forth between the clerk’s office and the Secretary of State’s Office to the media.  I’m very disturbed by the pattern of conduct I have found in those emails.”

Argumentative comments were made by Harman and both Bohannons and eventually John Bohannon said, “We’ll see you in court.” 

County Clerk Jenny Bennitt said, “I take full responsibility for the actions of our office.  I stand by the decision that we made. I think we were very transparent and I’m confident that the ballot is accurate.  We have a lot of competition for the primary and I think that is a good thing.  I hope Marshall County voters come out and let their voices be heard.”