Gov. Chris Gregoire today announced she has called for an election to fill the vacancy in the 1st Congressional District. The U.S. Constitution requires the governor to order an election to fill a vacancy during a congressional term.
The special vacancy election for the current 1st Congressional District will be on the same schedule and the same ballot as the regular primary and general elections, as required by state law. The primary election will be held Aug. 7 and the general election will be held Nov. 6.
"It is important that the people of the 1st District have representation, especially in December when key votes on matters that affect our state may need to be cast," Gregoire said. "Washington state will need to have full representation in Congress."
The special election to fill a vacancy in the current Congress falls in a year when new districts have been drawn for the next Congress. This means that candidates to fill the vacancy will be on some of the same ballots as candidates for newly drawn district seats. New congressional boundaries are drawn every 10 years, and the boundaries proposed by the citizen redistricting commission were accepted by the Legislature and become effective for elections for the new congressional terms that begin on January 2013.
If Washington conducted a special election using the new 1st District boundaries, the House of Representatives could decide not to seat the person elected, according to a memorandum by the General Counsel to the House of Representatives Committee on House Administration. The memorandum notes that if new district boundaries were used to elect a representative for the remainder of the current Congress, it would mean some voters in the old district would have no representative for the remainder of the term while other voters who were previously part of another congressional district would be represented by two members of Congress, possibly violating "one-person, one-vote" constitutional principles.
"I am concerned about the voter confusion that could result," Gregoire said. "This is an unusual situation where an election to fill a vacancy occurs in a year of redistricting. The result is some voters will cast a ballot in the current 1st District for the special vacancy election and will also cast a vote in their new district for their next representative in Congress. I've asked the Secretary of State to work with county election officers to pursue an aggressive voter education campaign so constituents understand the votes they are casting. I also ask the media to help educate and inform the public in the existing and new 1st Congressional Districts."
"I support the Governor's decision to allow voters of the 1st Congressional District to fill the remainder of Rep. Jay Inslee's term by holding a special election in conjunction with our regularly scheduled primary and general election," said Secretary of State Sam Reed. "The winner of the full two-year term will be chosen by the voters of the newly redistricted 1st District, but the short term must be filled by the voters of the old 1st District who elected Jay Inslee. We will work with the affected counties to explain this situation clearly."