Gov. Mary Fallin called nine special elections last year following legislators leaving office mid-term. In an effort to protect taxpayer dollars, Sen. Ron Sharp has filed legislation to use the remaining campaign funds of departing members to pay for their districts’ special elections.
“When we run for office, we take an oath to uphold Oklahoma’s Constitution and serve our constituents faithfully,” said Sharp, R-Shawnee. “Taxpayers shouldn’t be burdened with a large special election bill when someone quits midterm to seek other opportunities or they’re removed from office because of legal or ethical issues. This bill will remove some of that taxpayer burden by using members’ remaining campaign funds to cover some of the costs of special elections.”
Senate Bill 1006 would place the members’ campaign funds in the State Election Board Revolving Fund up to the amount incurred by the state for conducting the Special Election.
According to the Oklahoma Election Board, special elections for the House of Representatives cost, on average, $8,000 to $12,000 for a primary or general and double that amount for both. A Senate primary or general special election costs an estimated $18,000 to $22,000 and twice that if both are necessary.
Special elections are called when members resign mid-term, are expelled by the legislature through a two-thirds vote or are removed from office because of ethical or legal issues.
After leaving office, any campaign funds not obligated for campaign or officeholder expenses can be retained for future campaigns (for the next succeeding term for the same office or for a different state elective office, excluding a judicial office), donated to a charitable organization, returned to any contributor in the amount they donated, contributed to a political party committee up to $25,000 or used to purchase item(s) to donate to a charitable organization. Members may also donate leftover funds directly to the state as well as any county, city, town or school district.