Should Chaffetz leave early – and, the Congressman says his departure is not imminent, as some reports say – he may leave a chaotic replacement procedure in his wake. Utah, which hasn’t needed a congressional special election since 1930, has an ambiguous special election law, meaning many officials there wouldn’t be sure of how they should proceed. The special election law merely states that the Governor issue a proclamation calling a vote to fill a vacancy.
Gov. Gary Herbert (R) says he will rely upon the state Attorney General and other lawyers to determine a special election procedure, but running through the state’s regular process will be likely. That means beginning with local county precinct conventions, followed by a state nominating convention, possibly a special primary, and then the special general election. The 3rd District is safely Republican, so the nomination procedures would become critically important. Many in the legislature fear that voter disenfranchisement lawsuits would result if the state does not develop clarifying legislation. For the legislature to act, Gov. Herbert would have to call a special session since the general assembly has already adjourned for this legislative year.