September 4, 2002 at 8:48 PM EST - Updated August 2 at 5:13 AM
CINCINNATI (AP) - A federal appeals court on Wednesday declined to order Gov. Bob Taft to call a special election to fill the vacancy created when James Traficant was expelled from Congress for a bribery conviction.
The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously rejected the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio's argument that the Republican governor had a constitutional duty to schedule a special election to replace Traficant (pictured, above).
The House kicked Traficant, a Democrat from Youngstown, out of Congress for his conviction in April on federal charges of bribery and other crimes. He is now in prison.
The ACLU said the U.S. Constitution requires a special election anytime there is a vacancy in congressional representation.
Appeals judges Danny Boggs, Alan Norris and R. Guy Cole Jr. said the ACLU failed to show that the Constitution requires the calling of a special election when the time that the interim representative would serve is minimal.
"The calling of a special election at this late date would be of little practical value to the voters," the judges wrote.
Raymond Vasvari, the ACLU's legal director, disagreed.
"We think that the constitutional duty is clear," he said. "It doesn't give the governor discretion, and the courts have given the governor today something which the Constitution denies him."
The ACLU now plans to pursue its pending argument in the appeals court that the election still must take place, Vasvari said.
The appeals court upheld a Columbus federal judge's ruling last month that Taft had the authority to decide not to call a special election.
Taft said replacing Traficant in Congress for what could only be a few weeks was not worth the expense of a special election. The governor had 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.
Ohio Attorney General Betty Montgomery said Taft consulted elections officials in the three counties and state Democrat and GOP party officials. They agreed they did not want a special election under these circumstances, Montgomery said.
(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)