House Supermajority Hinges on Uncounted Porter County Ballots

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House Supermajority Hinges on Uncounted Porter County Ballots

Court challenges, slow-moving count leave two key seats uncalled

(VALPARAISO, Ind.) - Republicans will keep comfortable majorities in the Indiana House and Senate, but a day after Election Day, it's still unknown whether they'll keep a supermajority in the House. 

A pollworker walkout caused some precincts to open hours late. That led to a court battle which allowed them to stay open past the normal closing time. Officials didn't count a single ballot Tuesday night, and though the county has reportedly started counting, it still hasn't reported any results.

State Republican Chairman Kyle Hupfer says if the final totals are close, the results could be contested. The state party argued unsuccessfully against the extension of polling hours, arguing those hours need to be uniform across the state. The court order does require anyone who got in line after six p-m to cast a provisional ballot so that those votes can be kept separate in case of a later legal challenge. Hupfer says he has no information on whether that part of the order's been followed.

Porter County Clerk Karen Martin and State Democratic Chairman John Zody didn't respond to requests for comment.

Five House districts include part of Porter County. Portage Democrat Chuck Moseley was unopposed, and two other legislators have run up big leads outside Porter County and are likely to win regardless. But the Porter County tallies will determine whether Democrat Lisa Beck's 504-vote lead over Crown Point Representative Julie Olthoff holds up. And Valparaiso Representative Ed Soliday's entire district is in Porter County. If Democrats win both races, they'd break the six-year Republican supermajority.

Republicans will still have a comfortable House majority and a Senate supermajority no matter what, and Hupfer says he's not concerned about the possibility of losing the two-thirds cushion in the House. He says most legislation moves with bipartisan support. And he says the primary advantage of a supermajority, the ability to prevent an opposition walkout, may not matter much -- he argues Democrats paid a heavy political price for walkouts in 2011 and 2012.

Democrats have already gained two House seats in unofficial returns, with Chris Chyung unseating Schererville Representative Hal Slager, and Lafayette Representative Sally Siegrist losing to Chris Campbell. Republicans' best opportunity for a pickup ended at midday Wednesday, when absentee ballots gave South Bend Democrat Joe Taylor a narrow reelection win.

Both parties elected their House and Senate leadership teams. House Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane will remain in those roles, while the 40 Senate Republicans affirmed the decision made by the outgoing legislature to elevate Martinsville's Rod Bray to president pro tem. House Democrats installed Fort Wayne's Phil GiaQuinta as minority leader, replacing Austin Representative Terry Goodin.

(Photo: lenzjona/Thinkstock)

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