Indiana man accused of killing wife wins primary

BOONE COUNTY, Ind. (WXIN) — An Indiana man in jail awaiting trial for the death of his wife has won the Republican primary for a seat on a township board.

Boone County’s Andrew Wilhoite received 60 votes (21.74 percent) in the GOP race for Clinton Township Council. He is one of the three winners of the primary race with Bradley J. Smith (39.86%) and Michael Young (38.41%).

Unless Wilhoite is convicted of a felony or retires before November, Boone County voters can expect to see his name on the ballot in the next general election.

In March, Wilhoite was charged with murder in connection with the death of his wife, Elizabeth “Nikki” Wilhoite.

Nikki Wilhoite was reported missing by friends on March 25. When police first showed up at Wilhoite’s home to investigate, Andrew Wilhoite told them they had had a fight the night before and that Nikki was likely at her sister’s house, according to court documents.

Police said they found blood in the master bedroom and bathroom and learned that Nikki Wilhoite, who had recently successfully undergone chemo treatment, filed for divorce on March 17.

After being questioned by Indiana State Police, a probable cause affidavit shows, Andrew Wilhoite confessed to fatally punching Nikki in the face with a gallon-sized cement flower pot and then tossing her. dumped his body in a nearby stream.

Andrew Wilhoite (photo courtesy of Boone County Sheriff’s Office), Nikki Wilhoite (photo courtesy of Indiana State Police)

Yet because Wilhoite has only been charged with one crime, not convicted, there is nothing legally stopping him from being on the ballot.

“It’s really important for people to understand in Indiana and all states in the United States that being charged with a crime is very different from being convicted of a crime. A person loses Indiana ballot access, in other words, the right to stand or serve in public access, if convicted of a crime. It is very different from being charged because there is a presumption of innocence, which means that person may very well be declared innocent and, therefore, be able to carry out their duties, ”said Elizabeth Bennion, chancellor professor of political science at Indiana University South. To fold.

County GOP officials said Wilhoite met the deadline to declare his candidacy for the party’s nomination in February before his arrest.

“For the primary election, a candidate has about 30 days and that starts around the second week of January and ends in February,” Boone County Republican Chairwoman Debbie Ottinger said.

According to the state’s Electoral Division, a candidate who chooses to withdraw from the primary election should submit that request by Feb. 11, also before Wilhoite’s arrest.

“In this situation, his arrest came after that, so he remained on the ballot,” said Ottinger, who said the options were, and still are, limited.

“You can’t take it off. We couldn’t come in and say, “We want to remove this individual. A normal voter or Boone County resident cannot come in and ask for that,” Ottinger explained.

No one but himself can remove Wilhoite from the ballot.

According to the Indiana Secretary of State’s Electoral Division, whether nominated in the primary, convention, or petition for nomination, a candidate has until noon on July 15 to submit their withdrawal.

Since Clinton Township has only one precinct, when an incumbent resigns or a candidate chooses to remove their name from the ballot, the incumbent’s party may choose a replacement. In this case, the new person would occupy the space on the ballot to vote in November.

Unless withdrawal was a decision he decides to make, Wilhoite’s name would remain on the ballot until he is found guilty of a crime, in which case there would be automatic disqualification, officials said.

“It can be anything from anything that needs to be dealt with, that it would be the least important thing and there is a very easy way to resolve that, should he choose to do so. I wouldn’t be the one to approach him about it, it would be people who know them, or he might see this and say, “Give me the paper” or “I don’t have time to worry about that,'” Ottinger said. “It has to be his decision at this point in regards to that if nothing changes in terms of the justice system, so that will be his decision.”

In the event that a candidate is found guilty of a crime after the withdrawal deadline and before the election, Ottinger explained how that would work.

“There’s another form he should fill out. Now if he chooses not to and someone just said, “I’m done, I don’t want to file anything else”, then there could be a lawsuit filed, asking the judge to remove that person from the ballot, and if the ballots had already been printed, according to Brad King of the state Division of Elections, you should go back and reprint your ballots,” Ottinger said.

“It would be a huge situation for that to happen because you already had people vote so you wouldn’t be able to count that vote for that one but you would add the new name then you should have new printed ballots and that’s what future voters would use until Election Day in November,” Ottinger said.

In her role, Ottinger said she had never had a situation like this, and so she contacted the state election commission to make sure of everything that needs to be done to ensure that they respect the law, and if a change is necessary, that they take the right measures.

“It’s certainly understandable if you’re in prison why people would think, ‘How do you get elected? How do you serve? You can be in jail for any number of different issues, reasons and charges, but until you’re convicted of a crime, you stay on the ballot,” Ottinger said.

So, with three positions available and only three GOP candidates on the ballot in the primary, was Wilhoite an automatic shoo-in to earn a spot on the ballot in the November general election?

The simple answer is no.

“When you have three positions available and you only have three candidates for those positions and they receive at least one vote, they automatically go to the November election,” Ottinger said.

Ottinger said if one of the candidates gets no votes in the primary, they will not automatically advance to the November ballot.

“I think sometimes people believe that if there are three people there and it says vote for three. I think some people feel like if they don’t vote for all three, maybe their ballot won’t count,” Ottinger said.

“For some of these races like a township advisory board, the top three voters will be selected. This does not mean that voters must necessarily vote three times. They could vote for the person or the two people they prefer. Similarly, voters won’t spoil their ballot by leaving certain races blank,” Bennion said. “They can choose which races to vote in and which ones they register are the ones which are then counted according to the number of votes each person has received.”

“It doesn’t change the fact that someone who got one or two votes could potentially qualify for the general election because they’re in the top three,” Bennion added.

In this case, there were only three candidates, so it only took one vote to get one of the three through.

In the primary election, there were no Democratic candidates on the ballot for a Clinton Township board seat, but that could change by November if candidates from other parties choose to apply for vacancies.

“If there were any challengers on the other side, then it would be for the court of public opinion to decide how much that particular charge would weigh on their minds when they vote, because in the general election, even if you’re a Republican, you can vote for a combination of Republicans and Democrats, likewise if you’re a Democrat some people might split their ticket if it was something that particularly troubled them,” Bennion said.

According to court records, Wilhoite’s next hearing is scheduled for May 27 in Boone Superior Court and a jury trial has been tentatively scheduled for August 29.

According to Indiana law, a person accused of murder must be held without bond until trial, so if his trial date is pushed back, no verdict is given in November, and Wilhoite never filed a request to withdraw before the July deadline, he could win the general election if he gets enough votes, even behind bars.

If that scenario occurs and an oath of office has to be sworn, Ottinger said, it would be the first time she’s known of a clerk swearing in someone behind bars.

“Never in the history of anything, and I’ve been involved with our party for a long time and I knew people before I got involved, and I’ve never heard of anyone sworn to the prison.”


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