Appeals Court Rules in Favor of ACLU of Ohio in Voting Rights Case

Affiliate: ACLU of Ohio
September 27, 2004 12:00 am

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Gov. Taft’s Failure to Call Mandatory Election was Unconstitutional

CINCINNATI – In a victory for the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, a federal appeals court today ruled that Gov. Robert Taft violated the voting rights of Ohioans when he refused to hold a special election to fill the seat vacated by Rep. James Traficant after he was expelled from the U.S. House of Representatives.

“The Sixth Circuit’s decision sends a clear message to Governor Taft and the State of Ohio regarding its election-related duties and responsibilities to Ohio voters,” said Scott Greenwood, General Counsel for the ACLU of Ohio. “As we get closer to Election Day, it is my sincere hope that Ohio’s elected officials will not treat current and future voter-related concerns so cavalierly.”

On July 24, 2002, Traficant was expelled from the House for several ethics violations. When such situations occur, the U.S. Constitution mandates that a special election be held to fill the vacancy. However, Governor Taft ignored the law and refused to call a special election, citing such concerns as costs and his view that the amount of time that 17th District citizens would be effectively disenfranchised would be minimal because of a general election to be held on November 5, 2002.

That decision left the residents of Ohio’s 17th District without representation in the House for almost six months, from July 2002 until January 2003. As a result, 17th District residents went unrepresented in the House during such important votes as Congressional authority authorizing the use of force against Iraq, the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, and several key appropriations packages.

Today’s decision came from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. The ACLU’s Greenwood presented oral arguments in the case.

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