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Secretary of State

SOS > Media Center >  Press Releases > 2008 Press Releases > Question and Answers regarding the vacancy in Indiana's Seventh Congressional District Question and Answers regarding the vacancy in Indiana's Seventh Congressional District

1) How long will the seat remain vacant?

Under Indiana Code 3-10-8-1(3), the seat will remain vacant until a special election is held. The winner of the election must then take the oath of office and be seated by the U.S. House of Representatives.

Unlike the U.S. Senate where vacancies are filled by gubernatorial appointment, there is no appointment to fill a vacancy in the U.S. House. Under Article 1, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution, vacancies in the U.S. House must be filled by special election.

2) When will the special election be held?

Under Indiana Code 3-13-3-2, the circuit court clerk of the county where the U.S. Representative resided (in this case, Marion County) must certify that the vacancy has occurred, and file the certification with the Governor.

The Governor will then issue a writ of election that must specify the date of the special election (IC 3-10-8-3). There is no deadline specified by law for either the clerk's certification to be filed or for the Governor's writ to be issued.

However, the combination of deadlines set by state law for nominating candidates and absentee ballot voting makes it mathematically impossible for a special election to occur earlier than 60 days after a vacancy occurs in the office of U.S. Representative (See, for example, IC 3-13-1-7; 3-13-1-9; 3-13-1-20; 3-8-6-13; 3-8-7-15).

3) How will the major party candidates select candidates?

Major political parties, i.e. Republicans and Democrats, will select candidates to be on the special election ballot by caucus. Within 30 days of the vacancy, the state party chairmen must call their caucuses, composed of precinct committeemen within the congressional district, who will nominate and elect their party's candidate (IC 3-13-1-7(a)(2)).

4) What about candidates who are not affiliated with a major political party?

These candidates could include a Libertarian Party candidate, who would be entitled to be placed on the ballot without petitioning. The Libertarian Party must give 10 days' notice of its intent to nominate a candidate (IC 3-13-1-20), and file the certification of its nominee no later than noon, 50 days before the election (IC 3-8-7-15).

These candidates could also include independent candidates or candidates of other minor party candidates, who gain access to the special election ballot by gathering petition signatures.

The total number of signatures needed by petition candidates would be equal to two percent of the total votes cast for all four secretary of state candidates in the most recent general election (in November 2006). A petition of nomination must be filed with the Indiana Election Division no later than noon 50 days before the date of the election (IC 3-8-6-13).

5) Who is responsible for holding the special election?

Once candidates are nominated and certified to the Indiana Election Division, each county within the district is responsible for holding the special election. The Marion County Election Board, headed by Elizabeth White, will be responsible for holding this election.

Ballots have to be printed, absentee voting must be available, and poll workers have to be recruited and appointed. Voter registration closes 29 days before the special election is held (IC 3-10-8-9).

6) Who pays for the costs associated with holding a special election?

Any costs involved with the special election are paid for by the county in accordance with normal election procedures (IC 3-5-3-1).

7) How long will the individual who is elected during the special election serve?

The individual elected in the special election would serve the remainder of the term which will end noon, January 3, 2009 (20th Amendment to the US Constitution).

8)What about the May 2008 primary election and November 2008 general election?

This special election for the remainder of the current term (2007-2009) will not affect the two elections next year for the 2009-2011 term. The primary and general elections in 2008 (held simultaneously with the presidential primary and presidential election) will be to seat the congressional representative for the term of office beginning January 3, 2009. Therefore, there will be three elections for this Congressional seat in 2008: a special election, the May primary, and November general election.

9) When was the last time a special election was held in Indiana?

The last time a special election for Congress was held in Indiana was on March 28, 1989, when former Valparaiso city council member Jill Long was elected to serve in the former 4th Congressional District for the seat vacated by Dan Coats, who had resigned to accept an appointment to the U.S. Senate from Governor Robert Orr.

10) Where can I obtain additional information about special elections?

Additional information about the special election can be obtained by visiting www.in.gov/sos/elections/ or by calling the Indiana Election Division at 317-232-3939.