By JOEL McNEECE
Qualifying ends next week for this year’s legislative elections, but a special election might also be in the works for Senate District 8.
Marshall Coleman–D, of Calhoun City, and Stephen Griffin–R, of Woodland, have both qualified for this year’s regular election in Senate District 8, which represents portions of Calhoun, Chickasaw, Lee and Grenada counties. The seat is open due to the recent death of Sen. Jack Gordon, who held the position for 27 years.
Bobby Harrison of the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal reported Wednesday morning that Gov. Haley Barbour is considering a special election to fill the seat for the remainder of 2011.
“The law states that if a vacancy occurs on or after June 1 in the year of the regularly scheduled elections for new four-year terms, the governor does not have to call a special election,” Harrison reported.
Gordon died May 7, but because this is a regular election year, the potential for significant confusion exist if a special election is called.
In special elections, there are no party primaries. Candidates of all parties run on the same ballot. It’s not clear how that would be handled with the separate party primaries taking place at the same time.
The issue is further complicated by the lingering redistricting issue, which has been handed back to the legislature by the court.
Gov. Haley Barbour has said he will not call a special session on remapping legislative districts, despite requests from two House and Senate leaders.
Legislative redistricting ended up in court this year because the House and Senate could not agree on a plan to redraw districts to match population shifts found by the 2010 census.
A three-judge panel overseeing the redistricting case ruled that elections this year must be held in the current districts, which were drawn in 2002 using the 2000 census data.
A session would have to be called this week, at the latest, because of the approaching June 1 qualifying deadline.
If a special session isn’t called to allow the legislature to try and find an agreement on redistricting and the elections go forward in the current districts, there will likely have to be another round of elections next year under the new districts. That will mean Senate District 8 would undergo three elections in less than a year.
The Associated Press and Bobby Harrison of the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal contributed to this report.