OKLAHOMA'S wordy constitution devotes just one sentence to the procedure required for filling legislative vacancies: “The Governor shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies as may occur in the Legislature.” Short and sweet. If only the actual process were the same.
A spate of vacancies in the Legislature this year, and the long time it has taken or will take to get them filled, makes us think changes ought to be considered.
As it stands, the governor has 30 days after a vacancy occurs to set the dates for candidate filing periods and the primary and the general elections. A law that took effect this year, the “Let the Troops Vote Act,” requires states and counties to provide absentee ballots to military and overseas voters 45 days before an election. This means you can bank on at least a two-month gap between the filing dates and the primary, and another such gap between the primary and the general election.
When Rep. Rusty Farley, who represented District 1 in the Oklahoma House, died July 4, the filing period for those wishing to replace him was a three-day stretch in late August. The primary election to narrow the field was held Nov. 8. The general election to determine Farley's successor won't be until Feb. 14 — about two weeks after the 2012 session begins.
The Legislature lost two more members in October. State Sen. Andrew Rice, D-Oklahoma City, announced his resignation effective Jan. 15. State Rep. Dan Sullivan, R-Tulsa, was named head of the Grand River Dam Authority effective Dec. 1. And earlier this month, state Sen. David Myers, R-Ponca City, died.
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