Michael Leppert: Indiana voters shamefully elect Morales

As I write, votes are still being counted in some places across America. That vital process, which has defined who we are since the dawn of the republic, had a big night Tuesday. So did voters.

In most places, that is. Just not in Indiana.

It would be easy to interpret that opening as just the ranting of a left-of-center voter who wanted different partisan outcomes. Yes, there were plenty of candidates I was rooting for, and some I voted for, who lost on Nov. 8. I’m used to that here, living in the deep-blue population center of the state in Indianapolis, while being surrounded by a sea of red counties. Nationally, things more often ebb and flow from cycle to cycle based on the circumstances at hand, including this year.

What happened this week in Indiana is different. It is also relatively unique. Diego Morales was elected as the Indiana Secretary of State.

It shows that the worst statewide candidate that I have ever seen on a ballot here only loses about 5% of Hoosier voters, according to the Indiana Election Division. Five percent, compared to GOP U.S. Sen. Todd Young’s winning margin at the top of the ticket.

That’s what being fired, twice, from the very office Morales wants to lead will cost you in Indiana. That’s what being accused, twice, of sexual harassment of young campaign and secretary of state office staff will cost you in Indiana.

Five percentage points.

Those problems were publicly known before the credible allegation against Morales that he committed voter fraud in 2018 was made in the last week of the campaign. Voter fraud — by the candidate who wants to be the chief of elections in Indiana. That should cost him, right?

Five percentage points.

There was a time in our politics that these kinds of things could and should tank a campaign. The reason it should is because elections are analogous to a hiring. Of the roughly 54% of Hoosier voters who voted for Morales on Tuesday, I’m curious how many of them would hire him for a job of any significance given the above details. I wouldn’t.

At least the other worst-candidate-of-the-cycle, Georgia Senate candidate Herschel Walker, is talking in terms of redemption for the resume catastrophes he’s dragging around. Not Morales. He calls the voter fraud allegations “old news.” In politics, 2018 is not “old” or even beyond the statute of limitations for the criminal allegation. And if it is “news,” I can’t help interpreting that part of his comment as a confession.

He will start his new job under the cloud of a certain investigation of at least one alleged crime. In other “old news,” former Indiana Secretary of State Charlie White, also a Republican, won his election to the office in 2010, took office in 2011 under a similar cloud, was convicted of six felonies in February of 2012 and removed from office. He was convicted of theft, perjury, and wait for it, voter fraud.

So, yes Indiana, we have seen this act before. It is starting to feel more like a feature of GOP secretaries of state, not a bug.

And this kind of thing, in 2022, will cost such a candidate exactly 5 percentage points.

Before voters knew any of this about Morales, way back in the spring and early summer, we knew he was an election denier. In other words, we knew he was a liar, and that he was willing to lie in service to Tuesday night’s biggest loser, Donald Trump. He is willing to lie about elections, while campaigning to be in charge of elections.

The 2022 election in America will not be remembered in most places for this embarrassing civic collapse of the Hoosier conscience. It will be remembered for the end of Trump’s stranglehold on the national GOP. It will be remembered for the favorable conditions that should have led to a great night for Republicans nationally, and then ultimately didn’t. It will be remembered for pro-choice referenda that passed in Michigan to our north and Kentucky to our south, right after Indiana rushed to pass an oppressive abortion-banning law just three months earlier.

It will be remembered for Americans voting for something as basic as democracy itself.

But that’s not what happened in Indiana. The state announced to the nation the depth of its shallowness, its disengagement in its own government, and most of all, its ignorance.

Michael Leppert is an author, educator and a communication consultant in Indianapolis. He writes about government, politics and culture at MichaelLeppert.com. This commentary was originally published at indianacapitalchronicle.com. Send comments to [email protected]