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Published: Tuesday, 4/2/2002

Victory over bossism

Overruling the Lucas County prosecutor and the secretary of state, the Ohio Supreme Court has done the sensible thing and declared that the city of Toledo's home-rule authority allows it to fill a City Council vacancy at the May 7 primary election.

The high court's unanimous decision is a victory over old-line political bossism inherent in state law, which would have put the election off for more than a year and kept a recent party appointee in office in the meantime.

Directly, and without equivocation, the court declared that voters must be given the opportunity to fill vacant elected offices “at the earliest possible time.”

At issue is the District 4 council seat, now occupied by Michael Ashford. He was appointed by council Democrats, at the direction of the party organization, when Edna Brown was named state representative, replacing Mayor Ford. Now Mr. Ashford will have to defend his seat against at least four Democratic and Republican opponents, and that is as it should be.

As we have said, we have no quarrel with Mr. Ashford, only the appointment process, which allows party bosses to elevate their will over that of voters.

Had the Supreme Court not acted, the election to fill the vacancy wouldn't have been held for more than 18 months, in 2003. The board of elections, the county prosecutor, and Secretary of State Ken Blackwell had cited a provision of the Ohio constitution that prohibits cities from holding elections in even-numbered years.

Now the Supreme Court has settled the matter, shifting at least some power over who holds office from backroom political machines to the people, where it belongs.

This case sets a valuable precedent, which must not be forgotten: Voters have the basic right to choose who represents them.

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