A petition for writ of mandamus filed against Gov. Jay Nixon by 10 Missouri citizens would force the governor to allow voters to fill vacant seats in the Missouri General Assembly.
The writ, filed in Cole County, requires the governor to fill the vacant seats for the 120th, 67th and 151st districts in the House of Representatives and the seat for the 22nd District in the Senate.
So far, the governor has not issued a writ of election for any of the four vacant legislative seats.
The relators are asking the court to issue a writ of mandamus ordering Nixon to immediately issue writs of election for each of the currently vacant seats in the Missouri General Assembly.
They claim that until the governor fulfills his “constitutional and statutory duty” to issue writs of election for these vacant seats, they will be improperly denied their right to have representation in both houses of the Missouri General Assembly.
Jason Smith most recently represented the 120th Representative District, but his seat was vacated on June 5, when he was sworn into office to represent Missouri’s 8th Congressional District.
Relator Matt Hay of Arnold resides in the 22nd Senate District. In addition to denying the district representation in the General Assembly, he said he believes Nixon’s political motivation is to deny Republicans the necessary number of votes to override vetoes.
Missouri’s 67th Representative District, which was held by Steve Webb, was vacated Dec. 2, when Webb announced his resignation from the state House.
Dennis Fowler’s seat in the 151st Representative District was vacated on Dec. 18, when the governor appointed him to serve as a member of the Board of Probation and Parole. Likewise, Missouri’s 22nd Senate District held by Ryan McKenna was vacated that same day when he was appointed to become the director of the Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations.
“In Jefferson County, that is 171,000 residents who are going to be denied representation in the 22nd Senate District,” Hay says. “What Nixon is essentially doing is setting a precedent that the statutes which compel him to call elections in a timely manner do not matter.”
State statute RSMo. §21.110 says that if the governor receives any resignation or notice of vacancy, or if he is satisfied of the death of any member of either house, during the recess, he shall, without delay, issue a writ of election to supply the vacancy.
“When Jeff Smith went to federal prison in August 2009, Nixon scheduled a special election in November. However, it seems that he abides by state statutes (particularly 21.110 RSMo) when it is advantageous to him and ignores it when he feels it is not,” Hay said.
Until the governor delivers a writ of election to the election authorities for legislative districts with vacant seats, those election authorities lack the power to call for an election to fill the vacant seats, the petition states.
“As long as a legislative seat remains vacant, the people living in that legislative district are deprived of a voice in that house of the legislature,” said Washington State-based attorney David E. Roland, who is involved with the Freedom Foundation.
Roland said he believes that holding elections in conjunction with the already-scheduled April 8 election would avoid the unnecessary expense of scheduling a stand-alone special election to fill the empty legislative seats.
“It would also allow the new legislators to be seated in time to provide the relators with meaningful representation for the spring 2014 session,” he said.
Nixon spokesman Scott Holste said that nothing has been done at this point regarding an election for the open seats.
Other relators in the petition include: Pamela Grow and George Howell of Rolla and Steve and Laura Hausladen of Bourbon, who live in the 120th District; Robyn Hamlin of St. Louis, which is in the 67th District; and Ronald Reiter of Festus and Gregory Murphy of Pacific, who reside in the 22nd Senate District. Sally Cato of Bernie and Charles Sanders of Dexter, live in Missouri’s 151st Representative District.
The case is Pamela K. Grow et al. v. Jeremiah Nixon.