Bloomington City Council candidate and IU student David Wolfe Bender does not live at the address he listed on his candidate filing, according to neighbors and a resident of the property.
Bender’s candidate filing and voter registration lists 304 E. 16th St., a rental house zoned for single family use near Memorial Stadium, as his address. This address is in District 6, where Bender is running.
But when approached, a resident of the house on 16th Street was adamant that Bender did not live there. The resident told the IDS that he and his roommates have all signed a lease for next year; he does not know who Bender is and said there is no chance Bender is residing there.
Bender, who has generated excitement as a student running in a majority-student district, may actually still live at his listed mailing address on the 600 block of South Henderson Street. This address is in District 4. This district currently has one candidate, Dave Rollo, running in the city council election.
According to his voter registration file, Bender was registered at the Henderson Street address from September 2021 to January 2023. He changed his registration to the 16th Street address on Jan. 20, less than two weeks before he filed to run on Jan. 31.
It is the job of the party chair in Monroe County to ensure candidates running in that party’s primary live at the residence they list in their candidate filing. David Henry, chair of the Monroe County Democrats, said this process involves checking the address listed on the filing with the candidate’s voter file. Since the addresses matched on both documents, the party had no reason to suspect this was not true.
Bender claims to have a signed lease
Bender said in a phone call that he had signed a lease at 304 E. 16th St. He said the Henderson Street apartment was his mailing address and that he was in the process of moving his things but did not say when he would be moved out.
The IDS asked Bender for a copy of his lease to verify his residency claims, but Bender refused to provide it, citing privacy concerns. Bender was also asked for any document proving his residency, but no documentation was provided as of publication. Bender did not respond directly to follow-up questions sent via text.
In the phone call, Bender repeatedly said that he satisfied Indiana code title 3 but did not state exactly how he satisfied the requirements.
In an email sent to the IDS, Bender provided comment on the questions surrounding where he lives.
“The change in voter registration meets the standard of Indiana Code 3-5-5. The voter registration change was done by the book. These process stories will have little effect on the residents of the Sixth District or the future of Bloomington. Our campaign is focused on supporting Bloomingtonians and their concerns about rising rent costs, threats to public safety, our city’s economic development plans, and long-term investment. I have plans to address all of those concerns, and I hope to have the opportunity to work on behalf of the voters of the Sixth District to solve those issues come January 2024.”
Bender is running unopposed
After IU student Bean Appleton dropped out of the race last week, Bender is the only candidate running in District 6. The deadline to challenge a candidate was last Friday, according to the Monroe County Election Board. This means Bender will still appear on the ballot.
Weeks past the filing deadline, Bender is almost certain to win the Democratic primary, but he may be up against a Republican, Libertarian or Independent challenger in the general election on Nov. 7. The deadline to file is June 30 for Independent candidates and July 3 for Libertarian or Republican candidates.
What happens next?
The Indiana code is not clear on what counts as residency. When a person does not go home to the residency on a daily basis, the definition becomes increasingly muddled.
Indiana allows candidates to establish residency at a place they intend to reside in if they engage in conduct to implement the intent. An example would be signing a lease or buying the property, although the options of what can be considered “conduct” are vast.
The nuances of whether or not a claim to a residence is valid depends on the deliberations of the county election board. If the board decides that something criminal has taken place, they may refer it to prosecutors or the police.
A person who files a fraudulent report may be charged with a Level 6 felony, according to the Indiana Code.
Editor's Note: David Wolfe Bender previously worked at the Indiana Daily Student.