More Considerations for a Special Election Date

Chet did a fairly good job outlining some of the possibilities for a special election to replace Tom Price in House District 6. I would suggest that there are a few additional considerations that could affect the setting of the special election date. The first one is the requirement that for all federal elections, including those for the House of Representatives, there must be a minimum of nine weeks between when the candidates are qualified and the date of election, in order to meet federal overseas/military voting requirements.

In effect, that means the fastest turnaround time for a special federal election is 67 days, assuming the governor were to issue a writ of election on the day after the incumbent resigned, and the two and a half days of qualifying took place on the three days immediately following. In practicality, that means that with President Trump inaugurated on Friday January 20th, a day of pomp and circumstance, the Senate could confirm Price on Monday the 23rd. That would take us to Friday, March 31st, or practically, Tuesday April 4th as the earliest election day. If there is a (likely) runoff, that would occur on June 6th. (Note that while some have referred to the Secretary of State’s election calendar, those dates do not apply to special elections for state or federal office.)

So, that covers the earliest possible date the election could occur. In that case, the legislature would likely still be in session, and obviously, qualifying would take place during session. We know that the seat of a qualifying legislator would be declared vacant on the day he or she qualified. Georgia law provides for 10 days for the governor to issue a writ of election, and the election would have to be between 30 and 60 days after that. However, because Georgia code appears to require a 45 day timeframe for absentee ballots if a federal election appears on the same date, in this “earliest possible” scenario, the 6th district election and the special election to replace the candidates would probably not be on the same day. To get the elections on the same day, add at least a week for state qualifying, likely more, before the election could be held.

What would happen in a more stretched out timeframe? One thing to take under consideration is the composition of the Fulton County delegation in the House. As it stands now, the Fulton delegation contains 13 Republicans and 12 Democrats, accounting for the results of the November elections. Should two Republican House members (Jan Jones, Chuck Martin and / or Betty Price) qualify to run in the special election for Tom Price’s seat, that would give the Democrats a majority of the delegation, at least until after the special state house election.

That would allow for the introduction of local legislation supported by the Democratic caucus. Whether such legislation would make it to the floor or not, of course, is subject to the whims of the Republican Speaker and President of the Senate. But even absent such legislation, the reformed delegation could pass rule changes, possibly containing some sort of poison pill that would limit the ability of Republicans to change them should they regain the majority.

To avoid that possibility, qualifying could be set for after Sine Die. But when will that be? Some are speculating that it will be a long session, as leadership waits to see if the Congressional GOP does anything affecting healthcare, including the repeal of Medicaid expansion, or even all of the Affordable Care Act. Other considerations include the dates of the Masters tournament (April 6-9), and Easter, which will be on April 16th. One could envision the General Assembly not meeting during the Masters, having Day 39 on Tuesday the 11th, and Sine Die Thursday the 13th.

Qualifying would have to conclude before April 18th in order to hold the election on June 20th, as Michael O’Sullivan suggests. Qualifying during Sine Die week? It could happen, but remember there’s nothing special about June 20th when it comes to Federal elections. Were the election to be held on the 20th, the likely runoff would be on August 22nd, a mere 12 days before the Dawgs go between the hedges against Appalachian State.

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Lawton Sack
Lawton Sack

First, thank you for the well thought out post, Jon.

It appears to avoid any lengthy absence of representation in Congress for GA-6 (possibly 8 months!) that one (or both) of the following may need to happen:

1. Rep. Price resigns sooner than later. It looks like the last day of session is Friday, December 16, 2016. Jon’s calculation of 67 days would put an election around Tuesday, February 23, 2016.

and/or

2. The election is planned regardless of who the candidates may be at the earliest possible date after Rep. Price’s resignation.

The Eiger
The Eiger

The is Zero chance that Tom Price resigns before he is confirmed by the Senate. That would be just dumb. The earliest he would be confirmed is inauguration day or the day after. Which there is a possibility of that.

Lawton Sack
Lawton Sack

I agree there is little chance of it happening. It is going to push the special election back further. I was just pointing out a couple of scenarios to prevent a lengthy period of non-representation.

Mrs R Kornstein
Mrs R Kornstein

I can’t believe the Governor calls an election while the sitting members can’t fundraise..