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The Indiana Daily Student

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Former City Council candidate David Wolfe Bender will not face criminal charges following election fraud investigation

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Former Bloomington City Council candidate and IU student David Wolfe Bender will not face criminal charges after a police investigation into his possible election fraud in February 2023 for listing an address that he did not reside at. 

“I wish to thank the various legal and investigative agencies that took the time to review the merits of this case,” Bender said in a text message to the IDS on Tuesday. 

Monroe County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Jeff Kehr said in an email that, per the prosecutor's office’s request, the Indiana State Police investigated and reviewed the possible fraud.  

“At this time, we do not believe that we can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Bender committed any criminal offenses,” Kehr said in the email.  

According to the Indiana Code, a person who files a fraudulent report may be charged with a Level 6 felony.  

Bender's candidate filing and voter registration listed 304 E. 16th St., a rental house near Memorial Stadium, as his address. The address listed was in District 6, where Bender was running as the Democratic nominee. At the time there was no Democratic opposition in District 6.  

An IDS investigation found that Bender did not reside in that house, and he had changed his voter registration from a residence in District 4 to that home in District 6.  

After approaching and interviewing a resident of that home on Feb. 2023, they told an IDS reporter Bender did not live in that home and that there was no chance Bender was residing there. The resident said he and his roommates had all signed a lease for the next year. 

In March 2023 The Monroe County Election Board  passed a motion for an official investigation after a complaint from William Ellis, the vice chair of the Monroe County Republican Party.  

In May 2023 the election board held a formal hearing with testimony from Bender. There, he explained he had signed a sublease for the summer of 2023 with a friend who he believed lived there, but that he later learned he was not actually on the lease. This made the lease invalid and meant the address he listed on his candidate filing form and voter registration was false. Knowingly filing a false report is a Level 6 felony according to the Indiana Code, but Bender claimed he genuinely believed the sublease he signed was valid.  

The board ultimately referred Bender's case to Monroe County Prosecutor Erika Oliphant and Attorney General Todd Rokita after its investigation.  

Following the prosecutor’s office’s decision this week, Bender said in the text message that he wanted to make a positive difference in his community and was disappointed that his candidacy did not reach that goal. He also said in the message he believes that engagement with the community is the core of "civic religion.” 

“While I no longer call Bloomington home, being an active resident in whatever community I do call home will be a virtue,” he said in the message. “Because, as Tom Schulman once wrote, ‘No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.’” 

Former IU student Sydney Zulich won the Democratic City Council District 6 candidacy, after Bender withdrew from the race.  

Editor's Note: David Wolfe Bender previously worked at the Indiana Daily Student. 

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