If Wu resigns, what happens? (corrected and updated)

Kari Chisholm FacebookTwitterWebsite

I've been fielding lots of questions about what happens if Congressman David Wu resigns. (And for the record, he says he won't, though he won't run for re-election.)

Should a vacancy occur in a congressional seat in Oregon, here's the story:

So, what would Kitzhaber do?

That is unknown. But there is a general precedent over the last five decades, and specific Kitzhaber precedent.

So, in three of four cases, Oregon held a special primary election - rather than party conventions. The only party convention was held because it was already so late in the election year. And in both cases that occurred under Governor Kitzhaber, he called for special primaries.

Want to read the law? Check out ORS 188.120.

One more thing: The new districts take effect on January 1, so any special election held before then would be conducted within the old district lines.

Correction, 9:30 a.m.: The redistricting law, SB 990, actually makes it crystal clear -- the new lines are effective immediately.

SECTION 3. { + (1) Except as provided in subsection (2) of this section, the amendments to ORS 188.140 by section 1 of this 2011 Act become operative on January 3, 2013.

(2) For the purposes of nominating or electing Representatives to the Congress of the United States, the amendments to ORS 188.140 by section 1 of this 2011 Act become operative on the effective date of this 2011 Act.

(3) For purposes of this section, nomination of candidates means the nomination of candidates by a major political party at the primary election as provided in ORS chapter 249 and the nomination of candidates by other than a major political party as provided in ORS chapter 249. + }

SECTION 4. { + This 2011 Act being necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health and safety, an emergency is declared to exist, and this 2011 Act takes effect on its passage. + }

SB 990 was passed by the House and Senate, and signed by the Governor, on June 30, 2011. So, they're effective immediately. This will, of course, cause great consternation among the county clerks. I'm sure they'd like to have until the beginning of the year to draw new precincts, reassign voters in the voter database, etc. But they may not have as much time as they'd like.

Of course, there's another troublesome wrinkle. If Wu does resign, and there is a special election this fall, the election would be held under the new lines - but the new Member of Congress would represent the old district until January 3, 2013. There would be people who get to vote in that race, but would not be represented by that new Member. There would be others who don't get to vote in the race, but would be represented by that new Member. Pretty confusing, and a possible legal problem. (As the lawyers say, it ain't a ripe question yet, since there's been no resignation.)

Update, 11:45 a.m. Well, this just gets more and more confusing and interesting. I've just received word from the Elections Division that their official position is that any special election held this fall would be held under the old map. They are relying on guidance from Legislative Counsel and their DOJ counsel.

Update, 8/4 I now have more detail on the legal explanation. See this post.

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    Thanks, Kari. You must have had a late night:)! Just to add, in the Democratic Party, the nominations convention would be held by the First Congressional District (CD)organization and every appointed PCP (precinct committeeperson)from each of the 5 counties who reside within the first CD would be eligible to vote on our party's candidate. However, they must have been an appointed or elected PCP by the time of the resignation. I believe the Republicans would have a similar process.

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    Am I the only one who thinks that Kari just keeps all this in his head - dates, names, processes?

    Thank you, fine sir, for the information.

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    Thanks for the run-down on this Kari, very helpful.

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    Kari is impressive, but he's got nothing on Wayne Kinney when it comes to knowledge of these matters. this is an excellent summation; Mapes should save himself a lot of bother & just repost directly.

    i hope the Gov would go for the primary. the number of people who would participate in a nominating primary would be tiny; probably 10% of registered Dems or less. a primary would cost more but would be worth it for the democratic process. (and the sooner we get to that process, the better. resign now, Rep Wu. even Packwood knew when to get out.)

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    First, Evan, thank you. But I should note that I'm not alone in figuring all this out. I've been turning to some good folks and we're all noodling through it together.

    Second, I got one thing wrong. The new lines are effective immediately. The details posted above. So... I'm not infallible. :)

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    Thanks, Kari, always fascinating how this stuff plays out. And the concern of a citizen being disenfranchised in this type of redistricting-year special election is sure interesting. Seems possible that a potentially disenfrancished voter would have the ability to seek a court injunction against the special election being held...? That could be "messy," considering the games this Congress wants to play. Perhaps it would be better to let Mr. Wu limp to the finish line of his term...

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    OK, now I've got an update to the correction.

    Elections Division says they would conduct a special election under the old map. Period.

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    So then the timing will be the question. A primary in Sept. and a general in Nov.? Or a primary in Nov. and a general in Jan. under a new district?

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      They're saying that the special election would be held under the old map.

      Whether it's this fall or early next year won't matter.

      According to the Elections Division, the new map will get used for the first time in the regular May 2012 primary election.

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        That actually makes sense. The election is simply to serve the balance of the current term, so it makes sense that the district that elected the incumbent should choose a replacement.

        Otherwise, some voters would be disenfranchised and others would have the chance to have voted for two members of the same Congress while living in the same place.

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    Wrong thread for this question, but I hope Kari will ponder it at some point. Will having two Brads in a primary create problems for voters? Will it benefit anyone not named Brad, or are voters too sophisticated these days to get befuddled that easily?

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