27 September 2004

Expulsions in the Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear

The Sixth Circuit has acted to remove the symptoms, but not the cause, of a governor's failure to anticipate. A couple of years ago, James Traficant was expelled from the House of Representatives, being an accused racketeer who spent a little time at Club Fed. (Without delving into his "guilt," under its own rules the House was justified in ejecting him.) In July 2002, the Governor of Ohio refused to call a special election to replace Traficant for the remaining five months (21%) of his term. The ACLU sued; the Sixth Circuit decided in the ACLU's favor.

What I find most curious about the decision is its disjuncture from reality—a disjuncture that actually favors Governor Taft's position. All of the other "special election" cases concern the death of an officeholder during that officeholder's term. The Traficant expulsion, however, was not "sudden death." Instead, the first bill calling for expulsion, H. Res. 387, had been introduced in April 2002 (on the same day as H. Res. 389, urging the same action). Curiously, the Sixth Circuit's opinion recounts none of this; instead, it relies only upon H. Res. 495, the bill that actually expelled Traficant. Even the veriest moron—and I think Governor Taft is better than that—should at least have begun preparing for a possible short-notice special election upon the filing of 387 and 389, adding more than three months to the lead time based on actual expulsion on 24 July. This omission is rather curious, as it provides substantially greater factual and theoretical justification for the Sixth Circuit's rejection of Governor Taft's inaction.

But then, I find many election-law decisions rather curious, as they forthrightly attempt to proclaim that there is no partisan bias or maneuvering except in the most egregious of circumstances.