Special election to be held to fill Inslee's seat

Gov. Chris Gregoire said Monday she has called for a special election to fill the vacancy in the 1st Congressional District.

Former Congressman Jay Inslee stepped down from his 1st District seat last month to concentrate on his bid for governor. The Democrat faces Republican Rob McKenna in the race.

The special election will be on the same schedule and the same ballot as the regular primary and general elections. The Primary Election is Aug. 7, and the General Election is Nov. 6.

The winner of the special election will serve until Jan. 3. That's when the new Congress will be sworn in, including the person elected to represent the newly-formed District 1.

The upcoming elections may be a bit confusing to voters — thanks to redistricting prompted by the 2010 Census — as some will see candidates for both the new and old District 1 seats on their ballots.

The U.S. Constitution requires the governor to order an election to fill a vacancy during a congressional term. Inslee resigned March 20.

“It is important that the people of the 1st District have representation, especially in December when key votes on matters that affect our state may need to be cast,” Gregoire said. “Washington state will need to have full representation in Congress.”

Because the election is being held during redistricting, voters who live in the current boundaries of the 1st District will vote in the special election race.

Those candidates will also on some of the same ballots for voters in the newly-drawn District 1.

State officials said if the special election relied on the new 1st District boundaries, the U.S. House of Representatives could decide not to seat the person that voters elect. Voters in the old 1st District would not have a representative, while voters in the area that was moved to the new 1st District would have two representatives in Congress.

“I am concerned about the voter confusion that could result,” Gregoire said Monday.

“This is an unusual situation where an election to fill a vacancy occurs in a year of redistricting," she said. "The result is some voters will cast a ballot in the current 1st District for the special vacancy election and will also cast a vote in their new district for their next representative in Congress."

Gregoire said she has asked Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed to work with county election officers to conduct an aggressive education campaign so voters understand the votes they are casting.

Candidate filings for the current District 1 seat will be held during the week of May 14, and the state's Top Two Primary will have a postmark deadline of Aug. 7.

The top two vote-getters will advance to the Nov. 6 General Election, and the winner will certified by Dec. 6.

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