The San Diego region saw its fair share of special elections for state legislature seats this year. Now a retired California lawmaker is proposing an alternative: empty seats would be filled by the governor, not voters. The state legislature could take up the issue next month. Here’s a refresher on San Diego’s recent musical chair elections: Congressman Bob Filner was elected mayor, leaving his congressional seat open. Juan Vargas won that spot, leaving his state senate seat free, which was filled by Ben Hueso in a special election. But that left Hueso’s state assembly seat vacant, so another special election was called to fill it, which labor council leader Lorena Gonzalez won. The special elections for Vargas and Hueso’s seats cost San Diego County $1.5 million and $1.05 million respectively (the assembly seat election was consolidated with a special election to fill San Diego City Council’s District 4), according to Registrar of Voters Michael Vu. The turnout for both state elections hovered around 14.5 percent.
San Diego isn’t the only place with costly and low turnout special elections—there have been 13 special elections for the state legislature this year, all with turnouts less than 30 percent.
Retired state Senator Gary Hart has a solution. He’s been working with State Senator Darrell Steinberg on a constitutional amendment that would give the governor the power to appoint people to empty legislature seats for the remainder of the term. That means no more special elections for state seats.