Boone County, Indiana (WXIN) – A man from Indiana in prison is waiting trial for the death of his wife won the Republican primary for a municipal council seat.

Andrew Wilhoit of Boone County received 60 votes (21.74%) in the Republican race for Clinton City Council. He is one of the three winners in the primary race along with Bradley J. Smith (39.86%) and Michael Young (38.41%).

Unless Wilhoit is convicted of a crime or resigns before November, Boone County voters can expect to see his name on the ballot in the upcoming general election.

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

Nicki Wilhoit was reported missing by friends on March 25. When police first showed up at Wilhoit’s home to investigate, Andrew Wilhoit told them they had fought the night before and that Nikki was probably with her sister, according to court documents.

Police said they found blood in the master bedroom and bathroom and learned from Nicki Wilhoit, who was recently successfully undergone chemotherapyfiled for divorce on March 17.

After being questioned by Indiana police, according to an affidavit, Andrew Wilhoit admitted to fatally hitting Nikki in the face with a gallon-sized cement pot and then throwing her body into a nearby creek.

Andrew Wilhoit (photo provided by the Boone County Sheriff), Nicki Wilhoit (photo provided by Indiana Police)

And yet, since Wilhoite is only charged with a crime and not convicted, there is nothing to legally prevent him from being on the ballot.

“It’s really important for people in Indiana and all the states in the United States to understand that being convicted of a crime is very different from being convicted of a crime. A person loses access to Indiana ballots, in other words, the right to run or serve in public if convicted of a crime. This is very different from being accused, because there is a presumption of innocence, which means that a person can very well be found innocent and therefore able to serve, “said Elizabeth Benion, the Chancellor’s professor of political science. at Indiana Southern University Twist.

GOP County officials said Wilhoit met the deadline to announce his candidacy for party nomination in February before being arrested.

“For the primary, the candidate has approximately 30 days, and they begin around the second week of January and end in February,” said Debbie Oettinger, Republican chairman of Boone County.

According to the state election department, a candidate who chooses to withdraw from the primary election will have to submit this request by February 11, also before Wilhoit’s arrest.

“In this situation, his arrest came after that, so he stayed on the ballot,” said Oettinger, who said the possibilities were and still limited.

“You can’t remove it. We couldn’t go in and say, “We want to get rid of this man.” “A normal voter or Boone County resident can’t come in and ask for that,” Oettinger said.

No one else can remove Wilhoite from the ballot except him.

According to the Indiana Secretary of State’s Electoral Department, if nominated in a primary election, congress or through a nomination petition, the candidate has until noon on July 15 to file his resignation.

Because the city of Clinton has only one section, when an official resigns or a candidate decides to withdraw his or her name from the ballot, the official’s party may elect a deputy. In that case, the new person will take the seat on the ballot to be voted on in November.

Unless the withdrawal is a move he decides to make, Wilhoit’s name will remain on the ballot until he is convicted of a crime, in which case he will be automatically disqualified, officials said.

“It could be one of the things we have to deal with, that would be the least important thing, and there is a very easy way to solve it if he decides to do it. I will not be the one to turn to him for this, it will be people who know them, or he may see this and say, “Give me the paper” or “I don’t have time to worry about this,” he said. Ottinger. “It must be his decision at this point, if that is the case, if nothing changes as far as the judiciary is concerned, so he will be the one to make that decision.

In case the candidate is found guilty of a serious crime after the withdrawal deadline and before the election, Oettinger explained how this will work.

“There is another form he has to submit. Now, if he chooses not to do so and someone just says, “I’m done, I don’t want to submit anything else,” then action can be taken to ask the judge to remove that person from the ballot, and if the ballots have already been printed. “According to Brad King of the US Electoral Department, you will have to go back and reprint your ballots,” Oettinger said.

It would be a huge situation for this to happen because you already had people vote, so then you won’t be able to count that vote for this one, but you would add a new name, then you will have to have new ballots printed and that’s it, which future voters will use until election day in November, ”Oettinger said.

In her role, Oettinger said she had never had such a situation, so she turned to the state election commission to make sure everything needed to be done to ensure they were complying with the law and if change was needed. that they are taking the right steps.

“It’s certainly understandable if you’re in prison, why do people think, ‘How do you get elected?’ How do you manage to serve? You can be in prison for a number of issues, reasons and various charges, but until you are convicted of a crime, you remain on the ballot, “said Oettinger.

So, with three seats available and only three Republican candidates on the ballot in the primary, was Wilhoit automatically added to win a seat in the November general election?

The simple answer is no.

“When you have three vacancies and you only have three people who apply for those positions and they get at least one vote, they automatically go to the polls in November,” Oettinger said.

Oettinger said that if any of the candidates did not receive votes during the primary elections, they would not automatically go to the polls in November.

“I think sometimes people believe there are three people and write vote for three. “I think some people think that if they don’t vote for all three, then maybe their ballot won’t count,” Oettinger said.

“For some of these competitions, as the municipal advisory council, the three best votes will be chosen. This does not mean that voters must necessarily cast three votes. They could vote for one or two people they like best. In the same way, voters will not spoil their ballot by leaving some contests blank, “Benion said. “They can choose which contests to vote in and those who sign up are the ones who actually count in terms of how many votes each person gets.”

“This does not change the fact that a person who receives one or two votes can potentially run in the general election because he is in the top three,” Benion added.

In this case, there were only three candidates, so only one vote was needed to get one of the three.

There were no Democratic candidates on the ballot during the primary election to run for Clinton City Council, but that could change by November if candidates from other parties choose to run for office.

“If there were contenders on the other side, then it would be left to the public opinion court to decide exactly how much this accusation will weigh on their minds when they vote, because in a general election, even if you are a Republican, you can vote for a combination of Republicans and Democrats. In the same way, if you are a Democrat and so some people can split their ticket, if that’s something that is particularly troubling to them, “Benion said.

According to court records, Wilhoit’s next hearing is scheduled for May 27 at Boone’s Supreme Court, and the trial is scheduled for August 29.

By law in Indiana, a person accused of murder must be detained without bail in court, so if the date of his trial is moved back, a sentence is not reached until November, and Wilhoit has never filed a request for revocation until the deadline for July, he could win the general election if he gets enough votes, even while behind bars.

If this scenario happens and an oath has to be taken, Oettinger said, it will be the first time she knows of an official swearing an oath behind bars.

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

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