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California Constitutional Amendment to Eliminate Special Legislative Elections Advances

On April 23, the California Senate Elections Committee passed SCA 16, a proposed state constitutional amendment. The amendment says when there is a vacancy in the legislature, there won’t be a special election, and the Governor will appoint someone from the same party. If the empty seat had been held by an independent, the Governor can appoint anyone of any partisan affiliation.

The bill needed three votes in the 5-member Committee, and only received three votes. The chair of the Committee, Senator Norma Torres, did not vote for SCA 16, even though she is a Democrat and the sponsor of the amendment is the Democratic President Pro Tem of the Senate, Senator Darrell Steinberg. The bill needs a two-thirds vote in each House, and is unlikely to pass the full Senate.

Jeff Hewitt, a city councilmember in Calimesa, California, and a member of the Libertarian Party, testified against the bill, and his testimony was quoted in this Los Angeles Times story. Gale Morgan, vice-chair of the state Libertarian Party, also testified against the bill. No other organization sent witnesses to testify against the bill, although Californians for Electoral Reform sent a spokesperson to point out that since the rationale for the bill is to save money, money could be saved if special elections used Instant Runoff Voting, to avoid two-round elections.

5 Responses

  1. Jim Riley

    They’re treating symptoms not the cause.

    The main problem is 4-year senate terms, with senators jumping to other offices, or getting bored. This is exacerbated by redistricting not taking effect immediately.

    10% of Californians have NO senate representation, while 10% of Californians have TWO senators. Senators elected in 2010 may face dramatically different districts if they seek election in 2014. So they may quit, or switch to Congress.

    All senate terms should end in years ending in “2″, so that all senators are elected following redistricting. Districts should be numbered such that the fewest voters face voting in three senate elections in the 4-year period (elections in years ending in “0″, “2″, and “4″).

    Legislators should have to resign to run for another office prior to the end of their term. This would trigger any additional elections to be held coincidentally.

  2. Jim Riley

    The reason Norma Torres was elected in a special election was because her predecessor Gloria Negrete McCloud ran for Congress in the middle of her term. Had Negrete McCloud lost, she would have kept her senate seat.

    She won, and Norma Torres was elected in a special election immediately after the November 2012 general election. Torres won that election, which triggered a special assembly election.

    If Negrete McLeod would have been forced to resign to run for Congress, then Torres could have run in the special senate election coincident with the general election, and would not have been permitted to run for the assembly, permitting that election to choose a AM in an open election.

    There would be a small incremental cost to pay for the addition of the senate race to the June and November 2012 ballots.

  3. Demo Rep

    1. How many States have a 4-4-2 cycle for state senators (due to the 10 year Fed Census gerrymander stuff) ???

    2. Candidate/Incumbent rank order lists for legislative replacements.

    • Jim Riley

      Texas holds a full election after every redistricting. After the senate meets, senators draw for an initial 2 or 4-year term. So 16 senators serve 4-4-2 and 15 server 2-4-4.

      Illinois divided its senators into 3-classes, who serve 2-4-4; 4-2-4; and 4-4-2. Under the proposed term-limits initiative, the stagger of terms would be eliminated and all senators would run every 4-years.

      Hawaii has elections in all districts following redistricting. Districts are assigned an initial 2-year or 4-year term so as to minimize the number of voters who vote 3-times in a 4-year period (eg 2010, 2012, and 2014).

      12 states have 2-year terms (AZ, CT, GA, ID, ME, MA, NH, NY, NC, RI, SD, and VT).

      11 states have 4-year terms and no stagger (AL, KS, LA, MD, MI, MN*, MS, NJ*, NM, SC, VA). MN and NJ have a 2-year term associated with redistricting.

      7 states have 4-year terms and a stagger, but with all districts up for election following redistricting (AK, AR, DE, FL, HI, IL, and TX).

      19 states have 4-year terms and a stagger, but with no short terms following redistricting. These states disenfranchise some voters, and should lose congressional representation under terms of the 14th Amendment (CA, CO, IN, IA, KY, MO, MT, NE, NV, ND, OH, OK, OR, PA, TN, UT, WA, WI, WY)

      1 state (WV) elects two-senators from each district, with staggered 4-year terms.

      • Demo Rep

        Yikes. Major research on the State Senates.

        What century before 14th Amdt, Sec. 2 gets enforced ???

        Solution – ABOLISH all of the State Senates – a vestige of the Brit House of so-called *Lords*.

        P.R. and nonpartisan App.V.

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