Coroner candidate removed from primary ballot

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HANCOCK COUNTY — The Hancock County Election Board held a public hearing in regard to a candidate challenge by Hancock County Republican Party Chair Janice Silvey for the candidacy of Brittany Howell filing for county coroner.

Silvey said this was her second time filing a challenge against a candidate, and that when someone does file as a Republican, they pull voting records so they know they are a Republican in good standing.

Silvey said that she had filed a challenge for Howell’s candidacy after seeing that Howell had only voted in a general election in 2020. According to the Indiana Code statute, it did not meet the requirement of candidacy, which is voting in the two most-recent primary elections under that political party or the chair of the political party certifying that the member is of that political party.

“I felt it was the right thing to do,” Silvey said. “She had no (primary) vote history, and I never said she wasn’t a good candidate, I just didn’t know that she was a Republican or not. That was the reason for the challenge.”

Election board president John Apple explained that there had been some litigation on the statue when Republican candidate for U.S. Senator John Rust filed a lawsuit against Secretary of State Diego Morales and the Indiana Election Commission on Dec 27, 2023, where it was decided the statute was unconstitutional.

The Indiana Election Commission appealed the ruling to the Indiana Supreme Court on Feb. 12 and on Feb. 15, Chief Justice Loretta Rush from the Indiana Supreme Court issued an order stating, “Having considered the written submissions and having heard the arguments of counsel, a majority of the Court votes to stay the trial court’s order enjoining enforcement of Indiana Code section 3-8-2-7(a)(4), pending this Court’s forthcoming opinion.”

Indiana Code 3-8-2-7(a)(4) states that “… a candidate is considered to be affiliated with a political party only if any of the following applies: (A) The two (2) most recent primary elections in Indiana in which the candidate voted were primary elections held by the party with which the candidate claims affiliation. If the candidate cast a nonpartisan ballot at an election held at the most recent primary election in which the candidate voted, a certification by the county chairman under clause (B) is required. (B) The county chairman of: (i) the political party with which the candidate claims affiliation; and (ii) the county in which the candidate resides; certifies that the candidate is a member of the political party.”

Apple said that as a result, he views the statute as still valid and suspects that once the court issues their opinion based on the order, they will uphold the statue as constitutional.

For this particular case, Apple said that Howell filed her CAN 2 declaration of candidacy for county coroner, approximately an hour before noon Feb. 9, which was within the deadline for candidacy filing and that Silvey filed the CAN 1 challenge on Feb. 16, which was also timely.

Howell said that her reasoning behind deciding to run was for her genuine passion and interest in the funeral industry, something that sparked when she first watched the movie “My Girl.”

Howell said that while she attended mortuary school in 2014, she conducted her clinicals at a local funeral home, who at the time dealt directly with the coroner’s office as well as conducted all county autopsies at their facility. Howell said she was able to get first-hand experience and that’s when her interest shifted toward the coroner aspect.

“I simply wanted to run because it is a genuine interest/passion of mine,” Howell said. “The ultimate gain for me would have been serving my community with the upmost respect and empathy during some of the hardest circumstances we as individuals and a community will ever endure.”

Howell said that, in regards to voting, she believes in having knowledge of who and what someone is voting for — not voting to just vote. Howell said as her life continues to grow and change, she is becoming more in tune to politics and how it affects her directly. Howell said that the importance of voting in a primary election versus a general election was something that she wasn’t knowledgeable about before.

Apple said that with the requirement of the statute, they didn’t have much of a choice but to deny the CAN 2, meaning Howell will not appear on the primary ballot.

“I understand the political aspect of this position I attempted to run for, but to be removed from the ballot despite my drive and passion is discouraging for myself as well as all future and past candidates who will or have faced this obstacle,” Howell said. “I do believe there are people out there who would have voted for me based on my passion and drive and not necessarily because of my lack of voting history in the primaries.”