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Special election to replace former Rep. Conyers won't happen for 11 months

Former U.S. Rep. Conyers resigned this week, in the wake of sexual harassment allegations which he denies.
Lester Graham
Michigan Radio

Since former U.S. Representative John Conyers Jr. resigned this week, people living in Michigan’s 13th Congressional District don’t have a congressman.  

It will be almost a full year before they get one.

Governor Rick Snyder on Friday announced the timetable for a special election to name someone to serve the remainder of Conyers’ term – which ends Dec. 31, 2018.

The special general election will happen next November, the same day as the already-scheduled regular election.

One ballot, two terms

With the special and regular elections happening on the same day (November 6, 2018), voters in the 13th Congressional District will see a ballot with two portions, according to Anna Heaton, a spokesperson in Governor Snyder’s office.

“There will actually be two elections taking place on the ballot,” Heaton said.

In one section, voters will choose someone to serve the remainder of the current term from which Conyers resigned. The victorious candidate in the special election will end up serving less than two months in Congress.

On another part of the ballot, voters will elect someone to serve for the following full two-year term in Congress, beginning in January 2019.

The same process will be used for the earlier special and regular primary elections, scheduled for August 7, 2018.

The same candidate could theoretically win both the special and regular elections, though they would need to file separately as a candidate in each election.

Why wait so long to fill the open seat?

A press release from Governor Snyder’s office says there two main reasons.

Potential candidates need time to decide whether to run for office. And once they do, they’d need to file their paperwork – which needs to happen four months before a primary election, according to Heaton.

“Having ample time for candidates to make a decision about running for office and file their paperwork gives people more options as to who will next represent them in Congress,” Snyder said in the press release.  

Simultaneous special and regular elections also saves money. Otherwise, taxpayers in the 13th Congressional District would have to shoulder the cost of an entirely separate special election. Snyder also alluded to the cost savings in the press release.

The biggest downside on waiting to hold the special election until the same time as the regular election is for residents of the 13th Dongressional District who, until next November, will not be represented by any member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

We’ve been here before

Heaton says some Michigan residents went through this same process after Thad McCotter resigned from Michigan’s 11th Congressional District in 2012.

In that case, different candidates won the special and regular elections. That resulted in Democrat David Curson serving in Congress for six short weeks.  

Tyler Scott is the weekend afternoon host at Michigan Public, though you can often hear him filling in at other times during the week. Tyler started in radio at age 18, as a board operator at WMLM 1520AM in Alma, Michigan, where he later became host of The Morning Show.
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