Cincinnati public schools are at the center of the latest electoral controversy bubbling up during this contentious midterm election season.
According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, a lawsuit filed Monday by Thomas Brinkman Jr., a Republican candidate for Hamilton County auditor, claims that van loads of local high school students were shuttled to the nearby polling station to vote during school hours last week, given sample ballots 'only for Democratic candidates' and then treated with ice cream.
“They plan to bring four more high schools (to vote) this week,” Christopher Finney, an attorney with Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending & Taxes (COAST), said Monday after filing the suit with Brinkman.
According to the Enquirer, the suit seeks a temporary restraining order to prevent public school officials from using school hours and staff to engage students in partisan politics.
The school district's attorney is denying the charges. “No CPS personnel engaged in the promotion of candidates or any political party,” CPS attorney Mark Stepaniak noted in a written release. In addition, a CPS spokesperson said the school has shuttled students to the polls in the past without incident.
Here are the details of the lawsuit:
The suit alleges three van loads of Hughes High students arrived at the Downtown Board of Elections offices at 1 p.m. Wednesday, supervised by a school employee. School lets out at 3:15 p.m.
When they got out of the vans, the students, the suit alleges, also were accompanied by adults who appeared to be campaign workers or supporters for U.S. Rep. Steve Driehaus, D-West Price Hill, the congressman being challenged this fall by Steve Chabot. When the students got out of the vans, the suit alleges they were given sample ballots containing only Democratic candidates.
"We want these kids to vote,” Finney said. “I’m not sure them being bussed during the school day is a good thing, but that’s not the thrust of the suit... If they had fair sample ballots or no sample ballots it would be different."
"I certainly encourage everyone, including 18-year-olds, to participate in the voting process,” Brinkman said. "I just don’t want these kids to be coerced to vote one way and then given free ice cream as a reward."