CINCINNATI – Today, the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio Foundation was handed a victory in ACLU of Ohio v. Taft, a voting-rights case stemming from Governor Taft’s refusal to hold a special election after Rep. James Traficant was expelled from the U.S. House of Representatives. The victory comes as a result of today’s decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.
On July 24, 2002, James Traficant was expelled from the U.S. House of Representatives for several ethics violations. When such situations occur, Article I, section 2, clause 4 of the U.S. Constitution mandates that a special election be held to fill the vacancy. However, Governor Robert Taft refused to call a special election, leaving the residents of the Seventeenth District without representation in the House for almost six months, from July 2002 until January 2003.
Despite the clear language regarding Governor Taft’s duty found in the U.S. Constitution, Taft decided against issuing a Writ of Elections citing such concerns as costs and his view that the amount of time that Seventeenth District citizens would be effectively disenfranchised would be minimal because of a general election to be held on November 5 2002. Instead, voters in the Seventeenth District 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.
“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. Greenwood also presented oral argument in the case on the ACLU’s behalf in the Sixth Circuit. “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,” added Greenwood.