OR-1: Special election dates set

Kari Chisholm FacebookTwitterWebsite

Governor John Kitzhaber announced late tonight that he had received the formal letter of resignation from Congressman David Wu.

The letter from Wu was handwritten. View a copy here.

The Governor further announced that the special primary election will be held on November 8, with a special general election on January 31.

A special primary election will be held on November 8, 2011 and a special general election will be held on January 31, 2012. The Secretary of State’s Office will be releasing details of the special election process.

“I have received a letter of resignation from Congressman David Wu and am working with the Secretary of State's office on a special election process,” said Governor Kitzhaber. “Holding both a primary and general election allows the voters of the First Congressional District full participation in selecting a replacement.”

One awesome side benefit of this special election is that the rest of the country is going to get a bit more up-to-speed on how elections work in Oregon. Namely, our unique vote-by-mail system and our "fusion lite" system.

So, for you out-of-towners, here's how it works:

Any questions?

Update, 8/4: There's been some ongoing confusion (see here and in comments below) about whether the old maps or the new maps apply. The language of the redistricting law (SB 990) seems plainly to call for the new maps, and yet the Elections Division says the old maps apply. I've finally gotten some clarity - and it requires VERY close reading of the law. SB 990 says that the new maps apply to "the primary election as provided in ORS chapter 249". The word "the" is critical here, as is the reference to "249". The primary election in ORS 249 is the regular 2012 primary election. The special election that will be conducted this fall is governed by ORS 188. Whew.

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    With the initial report of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction due by November 23rd and up or down congressional votes due by December 23rd, the national backdrop to this special election will be interesting.

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    It appears to me that the special election (and the November 8 primaries for the major parties) both must use the new boundaries for the 1st Congressional District adopted in SB 990 (2011).

    SB 990 states:

    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.
    Nomination by means of the November 8 election is indeed "nomination of candidates by a major political party at the primary election as provided in ORS chapter 249," because it is specifically provided for in ORS 249.200(2)(a), which incorporates the procedure under ORS 188.120. Thus, the new boundaries apply to the nominations and to the special election, because those new boundaries took effect upon the passage of SB 990, which was in July 2011 "for the purposes of nominating of electing Representatives to the Congress of the United States." Further, the nomination of candidates by "other than a major political party" is governed in a special election by ORS 249.722(3). So the most accurate reading of SB 990 would require that the new boundaries apply to both the primaries and the special election.

    If you say that the November 8 election is not nomination as provided in ORS chapter 249 (but rather is nomination as provided in ORS chapter 188), then the November 8 election would be conducted with the old boundaries. In any event, however, the special election would be conducted with the new boundaries, because that is specifically what Section 3(2) of SB 990 states.

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      The language seems clear to me, as well.

      As I wrote back on July 25, the official position of the Elections Division is that any special election would be held under the old map. They are relying on guidance from Legislative Counsel and their DOJ counsel.

      Clearly, the legislative drafters didn't envision a special election this fall. (Why? I don't know. Apparently they weren't paying attention to what David Wu was doing.)

      There's one technical issue that prevents the new maps from being used: The county clerks just aren't ready. They need time to draw new precincts, assign voters to those precincts, etc.

      And there's one constitutional issue: If we use the new maps for the special, then the new OR-1 Member of Congress will have been elected by one group of voters (those in the new map) - but will represent another group of voters (those in the old map).

      The people who are in OR-1 in the old map, but not in the new map, will have a representative that they did not elect.

      Meanwhile, the people who are in OR-1 in the new map, but not the old map, will have had the opportunity to select a Member of Congress that does not represent them.

      I haven't reviewed the tapes, but I'm fairly certain we'd find that the legislative intent was clear -- the new maps are for the May and November 2012 elections, not before.

      Somebody just screwed up the language. It would be interesting to find out who.

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        Kari, what was going on during the session to suggest Wu would resign early? he had made clear he was going to fight for his seat, which was a drag, but there was no reason to believe he would leave early. not while redistricting was going on.

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          Well, there was a lot of chatter about "the other shoe dropping".

          Nothing firm, of course, but remember that as early as March, 46% of voters said he should resign.

          So, no, not a strong probability -- but more than a whelk's chance in a supernova, I'd say.

          Enough that careful legislative drafters should have considered the consequences.

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            Seeing the process so nicely laid out - it's time for same-day registration to come to Oregon. But hey, we're 30 years behind Idaho on our stop sign laws - guess we can trail them in voter registration too.

            Just to be clear, you're not required to use the secrecy envelope if you don't want to.

            For those who missed Kari's amazing Hitchhiker's reference re: whelk - I had to look it up - here's the excerpt.

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              What does same day registration have to do with district lines? The folks who are in OR-1 now but not under the new lines still couldn't register and still would not be represented by someone they could have voted on.

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            It's a problem of principle, not Wu's predictability. Consider Paul Wellstone. Any member of Congress could get hit by a bus or die in a plane crash (not sure if other offices could just be appointed). The law needed a special elections rider, possibly still does -- what happens if heaven forfend something terrible happens to another member of Congress after the leg. comes back in session but early in the year. Should their district just stay unrepresented for the remainder of this session, including the lame-duck window Nov '12-Jan'13?

            Wonder if the leg. will remember this next time they redistrict.

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        Interesting Kari. Has the governor or the elections division said which maps they intend to use?

        If the general were held in calendar 2011 the conflict wouldn't arise. I suppose Governor Kitzhaber did it this way to have one of the elections fall on the regular election day to save costs and foster better participation. However your "technical" point suggests that there are going to be added costs to prepare new detailed maps so the savings may not be so great.

        Although I guess it would be embarrassing, should the governor reverse himself and change the dates? Is there a way to get a court ruling that the old maps must be used despite the redistricting law? I guess we are assuming that the general sets the lines for the primary, but is there an argument that "the election" means the whole process and that it begins in 2011 so that 2011 lines apply throughout?

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          Never mind, that's all wrong. The passage in the law on nominating or electing members of the House of Representatives looks like the legislature just didn't care about what Kari calls the constitutional issue. (Kari, if you would remove my previous comment and this one, I'd be grateful, as they're unhelpful. If you prefer not, no worries.)

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          The elections division has said that the old maps will be used.

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    Full disclosure: My firm built Brad Avakian's campaign website. I speak only for myself.

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    I'm curious why these are being scheduled as far out as they are. The election, that is, the General Election, has to be at least 80 days from today if there is to be a Primary. This schedule has the Primary in 97 days and the General in 181 days. If a Legislator is elected, then the appointment process to fill his or her seat would take place during the February session. Am I missing something?

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      In 1995, Senator Bob Packwood (R) announced his resignation on September 7, effective October 1. (Bob Dole originally suggested 90 days, but Democrats forced the issue.)

      Governor Kitzhaber called for a special primary election on December 5 and a special general election on January 30, 1996.

      So, there was 66 days from resignation to primary, and 122 days to the general.

      Certainly, it makes sense to put one of the elections on November 8 - just to save the county clerks some money.

      Originally, I expected a general election in early December, maybe 4-5 weeks later. But ballots are mailed 18 days out. So that would have only left a week or two of pre-ballot campaigning.

      And I'm not sure you want to have an election in the midst of the holidays. Voter turnout would drop, campaigns would have trouble scheduling events around religious observances, television time would be much more expensive, and postal service would be extra busy.

      The longer timeline isn't optimal, but I'm not sure what another solution would be.

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      My guess is the holidays and rules for getting ballots back from people in the military services have quite a bit to do with the schedule.

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    Thanks for the extremely clear exposition of the Oregon process. I will watch with interest. I'm particularly interested in the pattern you report that very early voting has fallen off some since the early days of mail-in elections.

    Having managed a run-off in which the campaign run-up to election day went over Thanksgiving and into the Xmas period, I think the January 31 E-Day is a good choice for all involved. The alternative is brutal.

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    If you put the general on Tues. Dec 13 the SuperCongress process might be coming to a head -- could argue that as a reason for or against the date I guess. That would be 5 weeks of campaigning from the primary if it were held on Nov. 8th, which is adequate. Many countries fight entire national campaigns on that kind of schedule. Clearly we are talking about figuring out the best among bad choices.

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    Thanks, Kari. Let's pretend I want to run as an Independent, Republican, and Democrat...what are my deadlines and fees to get on the ballot?

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      For Democrats and Republicans, the filing deadline is August 15.

      Minor parties have to certify their nominees by December 1, though they may each have their own internal deadlines for their nominating processes.

      Nonaffiliated candidates also have to file by December 1 for the special general election.

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        thanks, so basically anybody (you don't have to live in the district) could buy a page in the Voter's Pamphlet and be on the ballot as a non-affiliated candidate, sounds like a cheap way to publish some poetry ;-)

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    Dan and Chris, I've now updated this post with the legal reasoning from the Elections Division.

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