As long as Traficant can prove 'an actual connection to the state,' his candidacy is legal, a research report says.
By STEPHEN SIFF
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
WARREN -- A familiar name will appear on the Nov. 5 general election ballot as a candidate for the 17th District congressional seat, despite his incarceration at a federal prison in Pennsylvania.
At a special meeting this morning, the Trumbull County board of elections agreed to follow the recommendation of Atty. Jim Saker, an assistant county prosecutor, to allow James A. Traficant Jr. on the ballot as an independent candidate. The board voted months ago to certify his petitions as a candidate.
Saker said this morning that Traficant's conviction, sentencing and incarceration have no bearing on his candidacy.
"The conclusion was that Mr. Traficant's name should appear on the ballot," Saker said. "The secretary of state and congressional research service came to the same conclusion."
The new 17th District includes portions of Trumbull, Mahoning, Portage and Summit counties, but not Traficant's Poland property.
Traficant has vowed to run for the seat, despite his eight-year sentence on his conviction for bribery, racketeering and tax evasion. The nine-term representative was expelled from Congress last month.
The responsibility of determining if Traficant can remain on the ballot falls upon the local elections board because the largest part of the 17th District is in Trumbull County.
Several others, however, have weighed in on the issue.
A report by the Congressional Research Service, the research arm of Congress, suggested that Traficant meets the criteria set out by the Constitution for congressional candidates. He is over age 25, a U.S. citizen and an inhabitant of the state he seeks to represent, the report says.
According to the report, the term inhabitant is flexible enough to include people who spend some time out of the state.
That means as long as Traficant can prove "an actual connection to the state," his candidacy is legal, the report says.
Traficant maintains a household in Poland, where his wife lives.
Benefit of the doubt
The Ohio Secretary of State's office has declined to offer a legal opinion on the matter, but a spokesman for that office said it generally prefers to give candidates the benefit of the doubt concerning residency.
The standard used by the secretary of state is that "one's residence is the place one goes when one intends to return home."
The board of elections received a written opinion from the secretary of state's office this week confirming that stance.
The board of elections' decision today may be appealed directly to the 11th District Court of Appeals.
State Sen. Timothy Ryan, a Niles Democrat and a former employee of Traficant's, and state Rep. Ann Womer Benjamin, an Aurora Republican, also are vying for the seat and could challenge the decision in court.