Judge Denies ACLU Request For Special Election

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - A federal judge on Monday denied the request by a civil liberties' group for a special election to replace ousted U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr.

U.S. District Judge Edmund Sargus noted that with Congress scheduled to recess on Oct. 3, there was a strong likelihood that an individual selected by voters in a special election would never cast a vote.

Sargus also said the state, and particularly Gov. Bob Taft, did not abuse his discretion in deciding not to hold a special election.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which sued to force Taft to hold the election, planned to appeal to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals immediately, said Raymond Vasvari, the ACLU's legal director.

"The federal command contained in the constitution is that an election be held," Vasvari said after Sargus ruled. "This decision confuses the issue of when to hold an election with whether to hold an election."

Last month, Taft said that replacing Traficant, a Democrat, for what could only be a few weeks was not worth the expense of a special election or the voter confusion it might cause.

Taft, a Republican, estimated it could cost voters in Columbiana, Mahoning and Trumbull counties as much as $800,000 to hold primaries and general elections to replace Traficant (pictured, above). The House kicked Traficant out of Congress for his conviction in April on federal charges of bribery and other crimes.

The American Civil Liberties Union sued to force the state to hold the election, saying Taft was required by the U.S. Constitution to order a special election.

The state had argued that holding a special election could jeopardize the election process itself as officials rushed to hold the vote.

Attorney General Betty Montgomery also pointed out that Taft consulted elections officials in the three counties and state Democrat and GOP party officials, all of whom agreed they did not want a special election.

"The governor made a thoughtful, careful and deliberate decision," Arthur Marziale, Montgomery's deputy chief counsel, said after the ruling.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)