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California Bill to Eliminate Special Legislative Elections

California State Senator Darrell Steinberg, the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, has introduced SCA 16. It eliminates special elections to fill legislative vacancies. Instead, the Governor could appoint someone who has the same party preference as the outgoing member. The house of the legislature that suffered the vacancy could veto the Governor’s choice if it wished.

If an independent had been elected and had resigned or died, the Governor could appoint anyone, regardless of party preference.

California State Senators have four-year terms. If a vacancy occurred in a State Senate seat in the first year of the term, the Governor’s appointment would only serve until the next general election. Thanks to Dave Kadlecek for this news.

7 Responses

  1. Mark Seidenberg

    I note that Assemblyman Dan Logue stated about the bill “We
    would expect this kind of thing in Cuba or North Korea, but
    not in a state like California with a proud tradition of direct democracy.”

    Sincerely, Mark Seidenberg

  2. hoshie

    We have this system here in North Carolina. If a state legislator dies, their party submits a name to the Governor and they are appointed. My former state representative William Wainwright died in 2012. Then-Governor Bev Perdue appointed Barbara Lee to finish his term. She did not seek the full term that November. As a voter, I’m used to this as this is a way to save money. I don’t like the fact that someone serves without a mandate, but sometimes you have to accept what’s available.

  3. Special elections usually have very low turnout, which justifies consideration of alternatives. But Sen. Steinberg’s version of appointment to fill vacancies might well be unconstitutional under Democratic Party v. Jones, as applied to any case in which the relevant party organization rejects the Governor’s choice.

  4. Demo Rep

    Candidate/Incumbent rank order lists for replacements.
    Legislative body to fill vacancy if prior sentence fails.

    Larger regimes require 24/7 legislative bodies.

  5. Jim Riley

    You are misinterpreting the senatorial provisions. It would provide for a special election concurrent with the general election if the vacancy occurred in the first biennium of a four-year term. But this would be subject to a cutoff date set by the legislature, which would probably set it to January or February so that the whole election cycle could be used.

    It would be better to require the appointee be from a party other than that of the elected member. That would reduce the number of vacancies.

  6. Jim Riley

    The amendment does not recognize the root causew of the senate special elections:

    (1) Redistricting which can remove senators from their current district, or make their re-election less likely.

    (2) Senators running for other offices midterm. In some cases, the other offices opened up because of redistricting.

    How to address these issues:

    (1) Senatorial elections in years ending in ‘0’ should be for a two-year term. This will mean that all senate seats will be elected in the year ending in ‘2’ using the new district boundaries.

    (2) In the senate elections in the year ending in ‘2’, half of the senators should run for 2-year terms, and half for 4-year terms. The 20 new (after redistricting) districts which have the most persons who resided in old districts that held elections in the ‘0’ year should have 4-year terms.

    So most voters will vote in 2020, 2022, and 2026; or 2018, 2022, and 2024. Relatively few will have 3 elections in 4 years (2000, 2002, and 2004) or in 8 years (1998, 2002, 2006).

    (3) If a senator files for another office, the election of which is held on the general election day held two years before the end of his term, he shall be deemed to have resigned the date after the general election date, and a special election for his replacement will be conducted using the regular primary and general election.

    (4) If a senator or MA files for another office in a special election, or which has an election date other than general election date, then a special election shall be held concurrent with the office the legislator seeks.

    These will eliminate the cascading elections such as occurred when Ron Dellums quit, where a senator was elected to replace Dellums; an MA was elected to replace the senator; and Audie Bock was elected to replace the MA.

    If everyone had decided to advance to another office, then there would have been one special election for all 3 offices.

    (5) Special elections should be all-mail ballots, with conditional choices expressed using ordinary numerals on the paper ballots.

    Around 90% of ballots in special elections are now cast by mail ballots (ie permanent vote by mail voters are made aware of the election; other voters simply are unaware that the special election is being held, or aren’t interesting in expending any time to go to the polling place for a single office). The ease of voting may encourage other voters to become permanent mail ballots.

    The paper ballots are returned directly to the county election officials, so they will all end up at a few locations, often only one. There is no need to set up polling places or man them with poll workers. Alternative Vote (AV) ballots are trivial to hand count, especially when there is only one office. Citizen tellers (selected like a jury from the voter rolls) could be utilized.

  7. Jim Riley

    Special Elections Since 2012 general election.

    SD 4, SD 32, and SD 40, senator elected to congress. In SD 4, Doug LaMalfa resigned after finishing 1st in the Open Primary, apparently confident of winning in the general election. This at least permitted the special election for senate to be held in November. But a runoff was required.

    The winners in SD 32 and SD 40 were MA, thus triggering special elections in AD 52 and AD 80.

    SD 16. Michael Rubio quit to work for Chevron. It is possible that this was related to redistricting since he barely barely lived in the district. Had all senators run in 2012, he might have decided not to run, rather than resigning 6 months into his second two years of his term.

    SD 26 Curren Price ran in a special election for city council in Los Angeles. The special senate election triggered a subsequent special election in AD 54.

    AD 45 Bob Blumenfield resigned after being elected to the city council in LA.

    SD 23 Bill Emmerson resigned. It is quite likely this will trigger a special Assembly election.

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