A rare case in which Democratic shenanigans might end up helping tea partiers.

The Election Board has voted 2-1 along party lines to find Sen. Richard Lugar, a Republican, and his wife ineligible to vote in their former home precinct. The two Democrats found that the Lugars abandoned that residence and no longer reside there. However, according to Election Board attorneys, there may be an easy fix — the Lugars could submit new voter registrations that are based on a physical address in the county with which they currently have a connection. That could be a family member’s home or, possibly, the Lugar family farm. There is no house on that farm but it might satisfy the requirement.

The GOP board member, Patrick J. Dietrick, said after today’s vote that the other members “utterly failed to consider the circumstances of this alleged violation of election law.” Today Clerk Beth White’s motion said there was no evidence that the Lugars knowingly violated residency requirements in voting previously in their Wayne Township precinct.

Lugar and his wife have lived in Virginia for decades, ever since Indiana first sent him to Congress, but this question was resolved in his favor by the state AG long ago. No matter. Looks like the two Democrats on the county election board saw a chance to toss a stinkbomb of bad PR at a moment when there’s a real chance he might be bumped off in a Republican primary. His opponent, Richard Mourdock, has already been endorsed by the Club for Growth, the NRA, and various tea-party groups and prominent sympathizers. The Democrats probably calculated that they’ve got a better shot at the seat against Mourdock than the eternal incumbent with 100 percent name recognition so they ginned up a tasty talking point about an establishment pol who’s been inside the Beltway for so long that he’s literally gone native. Tea partiers will feast on it, which may be the extra boost Mourdock needs. Although if you believe Lugar’s own polling, he’s in no danger: Internal numbers last month put him 25 points ahead, thanks in part to a huge financial advantage. (A local news poll in November had him up 49/28.) Anyone seen more recent data? I googled but current polls are scarce.

Two ads, one from each candidate, via Legal Insurrection. The primary’s on May 8.