Cain Resignation Highlights Special Election Need

The recent resignation of Delegate Alice Cain from the House of Delegates has once again brought light to a pet peeve of mine.

Let us take you back to just over one year ago. At the time, Anne Arundel County Democrats were going through the process of appointing a replacement for the late Speaker Mike Busch. They decided to have that meeting miles outside of the district, in a non-central location and refused to allow public comment.

Now, Anne Arundel Democrats have to fill a vacancy in the same district. And they provisionally were going to use the same non-participatory, non-centralized processed they used to fill the Busch vacancy last year.

It’s very clear that Anne Arundel County Democrats don’t want to be bothered with public input when choosing between establishment Democratic Party hacks as to who gets to do the party’s anti-taxpayer bidding in the House of Delegates.

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Though this process will necessarily be changed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the song remains the same. The people of District 30A are completely shut out of the process of selecting their own representatives. However, this becomes even more pronounced when you realize that once this appoint is made both of the delegates from District 30A will have been appointed. The voters in this district will have nobody in the House who they elected to represent them., only two Democrats appointed by party hacks.

But this continued lack of public comment also highlights something that we have discussed often over the years: special elections for legislative vacancies. We saw what happened in 2013 and 2015 when vacancies in Republican-held seats turned into drama-filled nightmares. We’ve talked about solutions before, but there has been no real impetus to change.  There’s gnashing of teeth when we see a vacancy and then, over time, people forget there was a vacancy at all.

There have been a number of concerns regarding the costs and disruption of holding a special election for these legislative vacancies. One of the ways suggested to overcome those concerns has been to held as a mail-only special election. Some have argued against that since one has never been held in Maryland before. But soon, we’ll have had one special election by mail-only ballot  (the 7th Congressional District) and may even wind up having a full-primary election by mail-only ballot as well.  If those elections are successful, that eliminates one more excuse used to oppose legislative special elections.

Once again we are in a situation where the voice of voters is being left out when determining who represents them. There is no reason not to pass whatever legislation is necessary to make special elections for legislative vacancies a reality as soon as possible.

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