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Indiana politician to stay in office during court appeal

By Susan Guyett

INDIANAPOLIS (Reuters) - Indiana Secretary of State Charlie White can stay in office while he asks a higher court to overturn a judge's ruling that the embattled Republican was not eligible to run for the position, a judge ruled Wednesday.

Marion County Circuit Court Judge Louis Rosenberg, who ruled in December that White's opponent should be declared the winner of the 2010 election, found that turmoil could be unavoidable whether or not he allowed White to stay in office during the appeal.

If he required White to leave office and his decision were reversed by a higher court, "the negative consequences would be great and irreparable," Rosenberg said in a two-page written ruling.

The Republican secretary of state, who faces seven felony charges including vote fraud, defeated Democrat Vop Osili by more than 340,000 votes in the election. Opponents contended White was not properly registered as a candidate.

White's trial in Hamilton County on those charges is scheduled to start on January 30.

White was registered at his ex-wife's address when he voted in the May 2010 primary and was not registered at his address until after the deadline for filing a declaration of candidacy or certificate of nomination, Rosenberg ruled in December.

Rosenberg reversed a 3-0 Indiana Recount Commission decision that found White eligible and ordered the commission to certify Osili as secretary of state.

Democrats have alleged that the reason White did not change his address was so he could retain a town council position. White has denied the allegations of voter fraud.

Politics and timing are issues in the battle over White's election.

If White's election is upheld and he resigns, or is removed from office after being convicted of a felony, Republican Governor Mitch Daniels would appoint his replacement.

(Reporting by Susan Guyett; Editing by David Bailey and Greg McCune)