School Buses Students to Vote, Gives Them Democrat-Only Sample Ballot

The Cincinnati Public Schools system "expressly denies" that it did anything wrong when it allowed a group of high school students to be bused during school hours to the Board of Elections, to be shown sample ballots that included only Democrats, and then to vote.

And it promises never to do it again.

Thomas Brinkman, a Republican candidate for county auditor, and a group called the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending & Taxes filed a legal complaint after three van loads of students from Hughes High School were bused on Oct. 13 to the Hamilton County Board of Elections. The students, all registered voters, were given sample ballots that listed only Democratic candidates -- "clearly with the intention of instructing [them] how to vote," according to the complaint -- before they cast their ballots.

Then the kids were then taken for free ice cream, a move Brinkman and the coalition said was tantamount to "bribery."

Brinkman's attorney, Chris Finney, said a teacher at the high school coordinated with Gwen Robinson, a former principal within the district, to allow a local church to provide three vans to transport the students to a local polling location.

"We wanted to stop this activity, to stop the buses from rolling and the one-sided nature of the contact," Finney told "We want academic freedom."

On Wednesday, attorneys for the school district and Brinkman filed an agreed order that calls for the district to "not use any personnel or property" for advocating any particular political candidate or party.

We want these kids exposed to the full range of ideas, and this order from the judge requires that," Finney said.

He isn't convinced, however, that the busing is limited to Cincinnati.

"We suspect this activity is going on throughout the state of Ohio," said Finney, who was unable to provide additional details. "And it just needs to stop."

The agreement, which was signed by Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Beth Myers, states that "All future efforts to transport students of the Cincinnati Public Schools to a polling place so that those students may vote as part of an educational activity shall comply with all policies of the Cincinnati Public Schools and Ohio law concerning field trips for students."

But school officials "expressly" denied any wrongdoing, and Finney said a lawsuit against the school system will  continue despite Wednesday's order. It seeks to have the incident declared a violation of Ohio law and district policy and to have a permanent injunction issued to never allow students to be subjected to partisan political activities during school hours. It also seeks to have Cincinnati Public Schools pay Finney's attorney fees, or at least $10,000. The case is scheduled to continue on Nov. 30.

"We're going to use this lawsuit to expose the depth of collusion between the Cincinnati Public Schools and the Democratic Party, who, in a one-sided way, seeks to indoctrinate the children for their electoral purposes," said Finney, who alleges that some school system employees are explicitly tasked to "turn out the vote" for Democratic candidates during election season.

"We intend to put a stop to that once and for all," he said.

Mark Stepaniak, an attorney for Cincinnati Public Schools, acknowledged that the district transported about a "score" of students to the polling place, an arrangement put in place by Robinson and a teacher he declined to identify.

In previous years, Stepaniak said, students were transported using donated bus tokens from a local YMCA. But due to budget shortfalls, the YMCA was unable to provide the tokens this year, prompting Robinson to arrange to have buses from a local church transport the students. He acknowledged that the students were given sample ballots by Robinson as they exited the buses.

"In isolation, it's like, 'How'd that happen?' But the district is not interested in partisan politics," he said. "That's not what they're supposed to do and that's not what they did."

Stepaniak said the activity was not occurring at other schools in the district.

"No one from the district distributed campaign material, or knew that campaign material would be distributed or sought to advance a political candidate," he said. "It happened the way it happened. We're now on alert to make sure that everything's tightened down."

Stepaniak continued, "I wouldn't say it's much ado about nothing, but it's definitely a one-off event and not emblematic of Cincinnati Public Schools to advance a particular party or candidate.

"You can see where the worry was, but this wasn't some massive plan by the district."