A federal appeals court ruled Monday that Gov. Bob Taft (search) should have ordered a special election to fill the vacancy created when James A. Traficant Jr. (search) was kicked out of Congress for a bribery and racketeering conviction.

The Constitution requires special elections when a seat becomes open during a congressional term, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (search) said in a 2-1 ruling.

Traficant was expelled from Congress in July 2002 after his conviction, but his seat was left empty until after the November election. He is serving an eight-year prison sentence.

Taft decided it was not worth the expense or possible voter confusion to hold a special election for a new lawmaker who could end up serving just a few weeks. He was challenged in court by the American Civil Liberties Union (search).

The appeals court overturned a lower court's ruling and said Taft's decision denied voters their constitutional rights to vote and to equal representation.

The decision sends the case back to U.S. District Judge Edmund Sargus Jr. to calculate attorneys' fees due to the ACLU.

Traficant tried to regain his seat from prison as an independent; Democrat Tim Ryan won the election.