Governor adds special election in 28th District

Warren clerk says adding partial term to ballot, on top of two-year term, will create voter confusion

By: Brian Louwers | Warren Weekly | Published March 1, 2016

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WARREN — Two weeks after Derek Miller left the Michigan House of Representatives to become the new Macomb County treasurer, Gov. Rick Snyder announced a special election to fill the ensuing vacancy in the Legislature.

If that sounds simple and straightforward, it isn’t.

Constituents in Center Line and the part of Warren that falls within the borders of the House’s 28th District will now be asked to take part in two separate elections, held on the same ballot, at the same polling place, on the same days during the August primary and November general elections.

Because Miller’s term was set to expire this year anyway, voters were already set to select a representative of the district for the next two years.

Snyder’s decision announcing a special election — and the calendar that election will apparently follow through August and November — now means voters will also be asked to pick Miller’s replacement for an eight-week period between Election Day Nov. 8 and the date when the newly elected Michigan Legislature begins work in January.

“This special election will coincide with an already scheduled election to ensure area residents have representation without adding additional costs to administer an election,” Snyder said in prepared remarks released through his office on Feb. 17. “This timing gives voters plenty of opportunity to research the candidates and decide who will represent them next in Lansing.”

Warren City Clerk Paul Wojno, who represented what at the time was the 28th District of the state House with different boundaries from 1997 to 2002, has a different view.

“The governor’s decision in calling the special election, in some ways it’s irresponsible,” Wojno said. “It’s illogical. The timeline provides no benefit, and the vacancy can be filled immediately after the (regular) election without a special election. I believe they overlooked that, and if they didn’t, then they didn’t do their homework.”

With two separate elections for the same seat with different terms on the ballot, the potential scenarios and implications range from confusing to completely absurd for voters.

Ahead of the filing deadline at 4 p.m. April 19, candidates for the 28th District must decide whether to file for the special election for the partial term, the full two-year term or both.

As for the two elections, Wojno said he’ll work to assemble a primer for voters in the 28th District who’ll go to the polls, first for the primary on Aug. 2, where they will be asked to vote for candidates in one party only but will be able to pick their choice in the 28th District for the special election and the full two-year term, should more than one candidate in each party file to run in each respective race.

Primary voters will have the option of picking the same candidate or a different candidate in the same party in each of the two 28th District elections. The winner of each respective race, from each party if there is more than one candidate from each party in each race on the ballot, whether it’s the same candidate or not, will advance to the November election.

In the end, the same candidate could win both the special and the regular elections, or voters could pick one candidate to serve for eight weeks — a period that typically includes a brief hiatus and lame-duck legislative sessions — and another to serve for the next two years.

Having both races on the ballot, Wojno said, is confusing at best. Had a primary for the seat been scheduled in May, he said it would have mattered in terms of representation because the seat could have been filled in August.

“It accomplishes nothing, and it will create additional voter confusion on the August and November ballots,” Wojno said.

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