Ever since he announced he may leave office early, state lawmakers have been debating how to go about replacing Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz if he steps down from Congress before January 2019. The United States Constitution declares that a vacancy in the House of Representative must be filled via an election held in the congressional district from which the vacancy originates. In contract, filling a vacancy in the Senate isn’t spelled out in the Constitution, leaving it to a state’s governor to appoint an interim replacement. Chaffetz, who represents Utah’s 3rd Congressional District, said last month that he wouldn’t seek re-election at the end of his term, adding he may not even finish his current term. This has led to a question among state lawmakers as to the process of how a replacement may be elected.
“The way that our state code reads is the governor calls a special election – and there’s no described method for that,” said James Evans, the Utah GOP chair, during the Washington County Republican Party’s organizing convention last month.
“So that means, right now, that the governor gets to create the election method,” Evans said, adding that it is not something Utah legislators are very keen on.
Legislators, including leaders from the state Republican and Democrat parties, have called for a special legislative session in order to spell out how the process by which a special election for a congressional replacement should work. As it stands, lawmakers have called the law “vague” and in need of refining.