Redistricting raises question in special elections for Oklahoma legislative seats

The Oklahoma attorney general's office has been asked to look into whether contenders seeking to fill three legislative seats in special elections early next year run in the current or the newly drawn districts.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT mmcnutt@opubco.com Published: November 15, 2011
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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Language in bills approving the new legislative districts repealed the current districts, Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax said Monday.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“If the old district lines have been repealed, it would indicate to me they don't exist,” Ziriax said.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.”

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