Upper chamber passes bill allowing governor appointments to fill U.S. Senate vacancies in Oklahoma

Staff Report 
OKLAHOMA CITY – According to a press release from Legislative staff at the Capitol, “In order to save taxpayers millions of dollars on a special election in the event of a future mid-term U.S. Senate seat vacancy,” the Senate passed legislation Tuesday night (March 9) to allow the governor to fill the seat by appointment. 

Sen. Lonnie Paxton, R-Tuttle, is the author of Senate Bill 959, which would move the special election for the U.S. Senate seat to the next regularly scheduled statewide general election.

“According to the State Election Board, holding a special election to fill a vacant U.S. Senate seat would cost taxpayers around $4 million. These types of elections are extremely expensive and inconvenient for voters,” Paxton said. 

“Allowing the governor to temporarily appoint someone to the empty seat and coordinate the special election with the next regularly scheduled general election would help avoid a nine-month void of representation, which is what it would take to run a complete special election cycle. This change is even more important right now due to the 50/50 split in the U.S. Senate.”

To be eligible to be appointed by the governor, an individual must have been a registered Oklahoma voter in the same party as the previous member for at least the last five years. The appointee would not be eligible to run for the vacancy in the special election or regular election.

“We’ve set specific eligibility guidelines for the appointee, and also prohibited the person from refiling for the office once the special term is fulfilled to protect the seat from the unfair advantage of incumbency,” Paxton said. 

“This bill encourages a robust election cycle for this important elected position, as the appointed individual is only meant to be a placeholder so that we don’t go underrepresented in the U.S. Senate.”

S.B. 959 will next be heard in the House where Rep. Kyle Hilbert, R-Bristow, is the principal House author.