Contenders seeking to fill three legislative seats in special elections early next year may have to run in the newly drawn House and Senate districts instead of the current districts.
The state Election Board is asking the attorney general's office to clarify.
Language in bills approving the new legislative districts repealed the current districts, Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax said Monday. The measures took effect Nov. 1. The three open legislative seats became vacant or will become vacant after the bills took effect.
“If the old district lines have been repealed, it would indicate to me they don't exist,” Ziriax said.
“We just want to make sure we have the correct understanding of the law and that we follow the law,” he said.
Until the attorney general's office rules, contenders may not know if they are qualified to seek the post. Contenders must be registered voters in the legislative districts they want to represent at least six months before they file for office. The filing period for two of the three vacancies is next month; the filing period for the third vacant seat hasn't been set yet.
Ziriax said the attorney general's office hopes to issue an opinion shortly.
It's unusual for the situation to occur. The vacancies are happening around the same time that legislative redistricting has occurred.
“It is rare to have all these things coming together at the same time,” Ziriax said. “Under normal circumstances this wouldn't really be an issue because we would be in between the reapportionment process instead of having these vacancies occur during the reapportionment process.”
Why they are vacant
More legislative seats have become vacant as well. Since July, three lawmakers have resigned and two legislators have died.
Senate Minority Leader Andrew Rice, D-Oklahoma City, is moving out of state; his resignation is effective Jan. 15. House of Representatives Floor Leader Dan Sullivan, R-Tulsa, is resigning Nov. 30; he was hired last month to be chief executive officer of the Grand River Dam Authority. Sullivan's new duties begin Dec. 1.
The filing period for Rice's Senate District 46 and Sullivan's House District 71 special elections will be Dec. 5-7. The special primary election will be Feb. 14. A special general election for both seats will be April 3. In the event that a primary election is not necessary, the general election will be Feb. 14.
No filing period has been set to fill the post held by Sen. David Myers, R-Ponca City, who died Friday. The governor has until Nov. 23 to set the filing and election dates for the Senate District 20 vacancy for the same period as the other two vacancies.
Candidates seeking two legislative vacancies that occurred earlier this year ran for the existing districts because those vacancies occurred before Nov. 1.
Greg Childers won last month's special election for the Senate District 43 seat to succeed Jim Reynolds, who resigned to assume the duties of Cleveland County treasurer in early July. A Feb. 14 election will be held to elect a successor to Rusty Farley's House District 1 seat; Farley died July 4.