Jewish World Review August 7, 2002 / 29 Menachem-Av, 5762

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Consumer Reports

ACLU seeks special election vs. Traficant | A federal court yesterday considered a petition by the American Civil Liberties Union to force a special election to replace expelled Rep. James Traficant, though whoever is elected would serve at most a few weeks before the 108th Congress is sworn in January.

Traficant, 61, who was sentenced to eight years in prison last week, has said he will seek re-election from his prison cell. However, the Ohio Democrat was transferred to the federal prison in Allenwood, Pa., Monday, making it unclear whether he is allowed to run for his seat.

Traficant was convicted in April on federal racketeering, tax evasion and bribery charges and was expelled from Congress July 24.

There are 600,000 residents in Traficant's 17th Congressional District, which was redrawn based on the 2000 census.

Gov. Bob Taft announced shortly after Traficant's expulsion there would be no special election to fill his seat because it would be too costly and too confusing for voters.

Ohio ACLU head Christine Link said, however, the right to vote is fundamental and Taft's decision disenfranchises those living in Traficant's district. A hearing was scheduled Aug. 16 before Judge Edmund A. Sargus Jr.

Traficant's incarceration in Pennsylvania raised the question of whether he could seek re-election as an independent since the Constitution says a congressional candidate must reside in the state from which he is seeking office on Election Day. The general election is Nov. 5.

Traficant has predicted he can win from a prison cell and said he can be just as effective for his district as anyone in Washington. No one has been elected to Congress from prison since 1798 when anti-Federalist Matthew Lyon of Vermont accomplished the feat while serving punishment for violating the Alien and Sedition Act by writing a letter calling President John Adams pompous and selfish.

Federal law prevents convicted felons from voting but does not bar them from Congress. It may take a lawsuit declaring Traficant's legal home still is in the Youngstown, Ohio, area and that he was removed by the federal government against his will to get him on the ballot.

The U.S. Bureau of Prisons decided where to put Traficant although he had asked U.S. District Judge Lesley Wells to recommend Ohio's only federal facility, which is in Elkton, near his district.

Traficant has denied any wrongdoing and claims he was "railroaded" by the federal government. He had asked Wells to allow him to remain free on bond pending his appeals but she denied the request.

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