Special Election for Michigan's 11th Congressional District
by Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley
July 10, 2012
Last week, U.S. Rep. Thaddeus McCotter of Michigan's 11th District resigned his position, leaving a vacancy in Congress and more than 600,000 Michiganders temporarily without representation in the U.S. House. Despite the challenges that may arise, it is my obligation under the U.S. Constitution and Michigan law to call a special election on September 5 to fill this vacancy and ensure that the people have a voice in Congress.
It is extremely disappointing that the district is forced to have a special election that is neither cost-effective nor efficient. Taxpayers deserve better. But the requirement for the governor to call a special election in this situation is clear and we must do so in a way that establishes fair, realistic deadlines for candidates and election officials. We will move forward so that district residents have full representation in Congress for the remainder of the term. I have every confidence that the outstanding election officials throughout the district will get the job done in spite of this challenging timeline.
In their wisdom, the Founders of our country foresaw that there would be times when vacancies in Congress might arise. Fearing that such vacancies would leave voters unrepresented in the legislature, they included a provision in the U.S. Constitution which says that when vacancies occur, the governor "shall issue Writs of Election to fill such Vacancies." Likewise, Michigan law states that the governor shall call a special election "whenever a vacancy shall occur in the office of representative in congress." Courts, too, have considered the question of whether the law mandates that a governor hold a special election to fill a vacancy in Congress, and their conclusion is the same: Under the law, the governor has no choice but to call a special election.
Holding such an election is not without costs, and it will not be an easy process. Elections bring added expenses for local governments. And in the case of a special election in the 11th District, confusion may arise. Because of redistricting based on the U.S. Census, the 11th District has been redrawn. Voters of the current 11th District will be asked to choose a representative to fill the remainder of McCotter's term, while also choosing a new representative in a redrawn district for Congress' next session. I understand these concerns, but nevertheless I must act in accordance with the law.
To be sure, with the costs of the special election comes an important benefit for the people of the 11th District for which no price tag can be affixed. They will have the benefit of representation in Congress during a very crucial time when Washington is considering questions of taxation, military funding and the debt limit. Absent a special election, their voices would not be heard in our nation's capital. So it is in accordance with the U.S. Constitution, Michigan law, the holdings of the courts and in an effort to ensure that the people are represented that I am calling for a special election on September 5.
Article V, Section 26 of the Michigan Constitution gives authority to the lieutenant governor when the governor is outside the state.
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