Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Although it contains some good ideas, Gov. Jay Nixon should veto an elections bill lawmakers sent his way last week — because it contains a political proposal that doesn’t improve the cause of good government.
It requires the governor to call a special election when one of Missouri’s two U.S. Senate seats or any statewide elected office — lieutenant governor, secretary of state, auditor, treasurer or attorney general — becomes vacant.
Currently, the state Constitution says the governor “shall fill all vacancies in public offices unless otherwise provided by law, and his appointees shall serve until their successors are duly elected or appointed and qualified.”
As passed, the bill allows the governor to appoint a short-term caretaker until the special election, for the for the attorney general and auditor, but not for the other three.
The Constitution also creates an elaborate line-of-succession to the governor’s office, so it isn’t included in the proposed law change.
State Rep. Jason Smith, R-Salem, has proposed the idea for the last couple of years, arguing that citizens always should have the opportunity to choose who holds elected offices.
But they already have that opportunity — the governor’s appointment to fill a vacancy lasts only until the next general election.
So, voters already have a say in the process, and allowing the governor to fill a vacancy until the next general election makes far more sense than leaving the office vacant or naming a very-short-term care-taker until the special election can be held.
Nixon should reject the proposal over that provision, alone.
But there is more trouble in the bill.
When Senate Bill 282 first was passed, it moved the date of Missouri’s every-four-years Presidential Preference Primary from the first Tuesday after the first Monday in February (Feb. 7 in 2012) to the first Tuesday after the first Monday in March (March 6, 2012).
That’s OK, we think.
It also contained an amendment from freshman Sen. Will Kraus, R-Lee’s Summit, deleting the first Tuesday after the first Monday in February and June as authorized election days — leaving official elections only in April, August and November.
But local governments with charters, including Jefferson City, still are free to hold a February election if the charter requires or allows it — which Jefferson City’s does.
And a House amendment put the February election date back into the bill.
We’re not excited by that provision but, as noted above, it’s not the worst thing the bill does.
The bill also reduces the requirement for an automatic election recount to one-half of one percent, instead of the current one-percent separation between the winning and losing vote totals.
Those recounts don’t happen that often. There really is no reason to change the percentage it’s just another reason for Nixon to veto the bill.