The Oklahoma Senate has passed a bill that would allow the governor to temporarily fill a vacant U.S. Senate seat.

Senate Bill 959 would move the need for a special election to the next regularly scheduled statewide general election, saving the state millions of dollars on a special election, said the bill’s author, Sen. Lonnie Paxton, R-Tuttle. The bill now moves to the House for consideration.

“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.

“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,” Paxton said.

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