Maryland Matters: Political Notes: Strong public support for special elections to fill vacancies, U.S. Senate campaign updates, siblings disavow RFK Jr.’s politics

"The General Assembly can’t continue to allow a handful of individuals to speak on behalf of thousands of voters."

This article originally appeared in Maryland Matters on October 11, 2023 and was written by Bryan P. Sears.  

Below is the section of the article that discusses Common Cause Maryland and Maryland PIRG’s recent statement calling for the General Assembly to act in the coming session to require special elections to fill legislative seats that become vacant. 

A majority of Maryland voters want to change how vacancies in the General Assembly are filled, according to a poll commissioned by a coalition of public interest groups.

Among 818 registered Maryland voters surveyed who said they are likely to vote in the 2024 general election, 85% favored filling vacancies in a special election. Only 13% favored continuing the practice of having local party central committees fill the vacancies.

The poll, commissioned by Common Cause Maryland and the Maryland Public Interest Research Group, was conducted between Sept. 18 and 28, by Annapolis-based Gonzales Research & Media Services. The margin of error for the poll is 3.5%.

“The General Assembly can’t continue to allow a handful of individuals to speak on behalf of thousands of voters. Letting another session pass with no action continues to diminish the voice of the voters,” said Common Cause Maryland Executive Director Joanne Antoine.

Currently, vacancies in the House of Delegates and the Senate are filled by local political central committees. Those panels submit a candidate to the governor for appointment to fill the balance of the term.

The poll results, released after a Senate committee chair announced her impending departure, show strong support for special elections. An effort to change the process has foundered in recent years but could benefit from public opinion and an early boost from the Senate president.

Last week, Senate Finance Committee Chair Melony Griffith (D-Prince George’s) announced she will leave her post by the end of the year to become president of the Maryland Hospital Association.

Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City) announced a series of leadership changes in light of Griffith’s departure on Tuesday.

Those appointed to the legislature are free to run for re-election.

Common Cause and Maryland PIRG note that 23% of legislators now serving in the Maryland General Assembly were not originally elected to their seats.

To read the full article, click here.