‘Political Insiders’ say special elections, not party delegates, should fill legislative vacancies

Sen. Curt Bramble says Utah should change the way the state fills midterm vacancies in the Legislature.

Right now, when a member of the Legislature resigns or retires, that spot is filled by party delegates, who forward a name to the governor for appointment. Bramble says that system is not fair, because the parties don’t own a legislative seat, so they shouldn’t get to pick the replacement. Instead, he suggests that those vacancies should go to a special election. 

If the legislature adopts Bramble’s proposed changes, it will dilute the power of party delegates, who have been solely in charge of picking legislative replacements up to this point. By some estimates, approximately 30% of current lawmakers originally earned their seat in the legislature by filling a midterm vacancy.

Our “Political Insiders” wholeheartedly agree with Bramble. Republicans, Democrats and our readers overwhelmingly say that those legislative vacancies should go to a special election, instead of letting party delegates choose a successor. 68% of the Republicans on our panel, 74% of the Democrats and 69% of our readers say they would like to see a special election for a legislative vacancy instead of the current system.

Most recently, Rep. Keith Grover, R-Provo, was selected by GOP delegates to fill the seat of Sen. Margaret Dayton, R-Orem, who retired due to health reasons. Now, GOP delegates will get to pick Grover’s replacement in the House.


Selected anonymous comments:

Once again, Bramble is spot on with long-overdue changes we need to make to our system. I hope he makes it happen this session.

The whole appointment by the Governor part has always seemed odd to me. Let’s just go to special elections be done with it.

The people should be heard directly. Take power out of the hands of the power brokers.

Just another way that Senator Bramble is undermining the will of the party.

Legislators should be chosen by the 38,000 people they represent. Not a small group of 100 or less.

Bramble is correct, as usual.

Party delegates have proved they’re extremists, not representative of their party or constituents.

Legislative seats belong to the constituents, not a political party.

The delegates have demonstrated a complete incapacity to make sound decisions that accurately represent the will of voters. They need less power, not more.

There are times when replacements need to be done quickly (Rep. Stanard example comes to mind). A formal election would just take too long.

Special elections will weaken already weak parties.

It’s time to put a stake in the heart of that old-fashioned process. Get with the times, Utah. Run a bill Bramble, and it will pass.

Parties should not be allowed to nominate candidates at all. They are private organizations if they want to endorse specific candidates, so be it, but don’t let them control the whole process.

Special elections cost too much to be used as often as would be needed for legislative vacancies. The delegate selection process works fine.

Let’s get closer to democracy, let the people vote.

The fewer delegate decisions, the better

The process for mid-term legislative vacancies has got to be changed. Senator Margaret Dayton resigned in 2018 in a way that allowed her heir appointment to be the only candidate in the running. She didn’t announce her resignation until AFTER the candidate filing deadline, and no one could file. The process should allow candidates to file AFTER the vacancy is announced whether the delegates pick the replacement or there is a special election.

A handful of voters is deciding some of these pivotal elections. It is not representative of our communities or politics.

Constituents should have the say, not just a few delegates.

It’s just to fill out the term. A special election though more fair would be cumbersome and far more expensive.

The delegates have proven again and again to be out of touch with regular voters. Why continue to give them the power to make these important decisions?

The current system works very well, and ought not to be disturbed.

The more we move toward a democracy, the weaker our republic becomes.

Recent examples, such as Rep. Travis Seegmiller (R), St. George, prove that the current system is working very well and efficiently. Seegmiller replaced his predecessor DURING THE LEGISLATIVE SESSION within only a few days of the vacancy opening up. An excellent new legislator, Seegmiller could never have been seated so quickly by a special election.

While I think this is a good idea – after all, the legislator is supposed to represent the voters in their district, not the delegates who will select them, the practical questions of time and cost don’t necessarily make this a good option. This could easily play out in scenarios where it would take months to fill a vacancy, such as we have right now for federal congresspersons, and leave large areas unrepresented. If a legislator resigned during the General Session (such as happened this year), it would be highly unlikely that that seat would be filled before the end of the session.

This should also include vacancies in county elected offices.

The current system of appointments excludes voters and gives appointed candidates the advantage of incumbency even before facing voters.

If it’s an elected position, then it needs to be an election. Delegates have an unfair advantage when their election cycle comes around.

Wow, way to go Bramble. Lots of other places do this too. It’s time Utah invested the time, energy, and resources into its democracy.

Delegates tend to be non-mainstream partisans. Anyone they choose will therefore almost certainly not be reflective of the population generally, or even of the party that holds the seat being vacated.