CINCINNATI (CN) - A Republican candidate for county auditor sued the Cincinnati Public Schools, claiming the school district provided school buses for students who were taken, accompanied by Democrats, to vote during the school day - after which the students were rewarded with ice cream.
Thomas Brinkman Jr., a candidate for Hamilton County Auditor, sued lone defendant the Cincinnati Public Schools, along with co-plaintiff, the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending & Taxes (COAST).
COAST has two political action committees, a Candidates PAC and an Issues PAC, according to the complaint in Hamilton County Court.
Brinkman says he and COAST sued the Cincinnati Public Schools in Federal Court in 2002, "regarding the illegal and unconstitutional use of school property for campaign purposes." The complaint was settled that year in the so-called COAST Agreement.
Brinkman says the school violated the deal by allowing its school buses to be used to take students to vote during the school day, accompanied "by campaign workers for certain candidates running for office, most notably, the campaign of Steve Driehaus, who is a Democrat running for re-election in the 1st Congressional District.
"Additionally, as part of this coordinated effort between the defendant and certain candidates' campaign efforts, the students are handed or provided Democratic Party sample ballots which instruct them how to vote, i.e., for Democrat [sic] candidates," the complaint states. "This activity is not balanced with a Republican Party sample ballot, or other information from Libertarian Party, Green Party, Constitutional Party or independent candidates."
Brinkman says that students from Hughes High School in Cincinnati were "transported in three vans to the Hamilton County Board of Elections" accompanied by a teacher and "individuals associated with political campaigns, including ... individuals wearing stickers advocating the re-election of Congressman Steve Driehaus."
En route, Brinkman says, the students "were each handed a Democratic Party sample ballot, clearly with the intention of instructing these students how to vote."
The complaint adds: "After the students had concluded the voting ... either the teacher/administrator or one of the campaign workers accompanying the students indicated that ... the students would be taken to Graeter's for a free ice cream treat."
(Sources who have been accurate in the past told Courthouse News Service that Graeter's ice cream is "phenomenal.")
Brinkman and COAST claim that "the providing of an ice cream treat ... in return for the students voting constitutes bribery," and that Cincinnati Public Schools "indicated that they would be would be doing the same activity with students from other public schools in Cincinnati the following week."
Brinkman and Coast demand an injunction "against the use of personnel and property of the Cincinnati Public Schools to coordinate or effectuate the transportation of students to the Hamilton County Board of Elections for the purpose of voting, and the distribution to students of campaign literature advocating certain candidates and/or positions."
They are represented by Christopher Finney.
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