The City Council of the District of Columbia has approved a measure that would require the Board of Elections and Ethics to hold a special election to fill a vacancy occurring in the office of mayor, City Council chairman or Council member on the first Tuesday, following 60 days after a respective vacancy has been declared.
Dubbed the Special Election Reform Charter Amendment Emergency Act of 2010, the would-be mandate shortens the requirement for holding a special election from 114 days to 70 days.
If the measure is signed into law on an emergency basis by Mayor Adrian Fenty and approved by Congress, it would impact the presumed impending vacancy of At-large Councilmember Kwame Brown’s seat.
Brown, the Democratic nominee for Council chair, is expected to prevail overwhelmingly in the Nov. 2 General Election and be sworn in as the next Council chairman on Jan. 2, 2011. Provided the BOEE declares the at-large seat vacant on Monday, Jan. 3, District voters could expect a citywide special election to take place that March.
According to Ward 5 Councilman Harry Thomas, Brown’s ascension to the Council’s helm sets the tone for a special election. Thomas explained that during the last ward races, the time frame for filling vacancies on the Council was changed to bring things back into line with election reforms.
“When Muriel Bowser and Yvette Alexander won, it was 128 days that a vacancy would have had to ,” Thomas said. “So that it would be a quicker time to get a special election, we reduced the time …so citizens could vote somebody in office —which I think is conforming to the rest of the law.”
Thomas added that a special election merely ensures that residents have consistent rules in place to cast their votes.