I understand how it’s easy for a layman to say, “well yeah, why cant they just hold a special election?” But elections cost precious (municipal?) money. Multiply that times, for example, 351 municipalities in our state, all with their own sometimes quirky polling place arrangements that can complicate and add expense – like in Amherst, MA, a college town that for a time had to, by law, staff polling places for students that weren’t there or never came (disclosure: I actually helped to put the polling places there on the UMass campus back in ’05).
People don’t realize the vast logistics that go into elections. Poll workers. Training the poll workers. Recruiting enough poll workers. Full-time election officials. The cops stationed at the elections. Independent poll watchers dispatched by voting rights groups. More elections increase possibility of there being a need for a recount, which costs serious bling. Elections need to be flawlessly executed, and yet there are a million ways to mess up. It was only TWO WEEKS AGO that the US Justice Department ended oversight of our elections here in Boston.
AND, as the article indicated, it’s never really just one election – it’s a Primary and a General, unless the position is non-partisan, so multiply everything I mentioned above times two.
And that’s just Election Day! For the candidates that run in the special election, going from zero to campaign is incredibly challenging. You gotta staff up with good people, fundraise, schedule the function halls to hold fundraisers (which are already booked up because you’re asking for the space on such short notice). Special elections are mentally and physically draining for those who run in them and work them. I worked two special elections myself. Special elections generally favor the insider candidate, who already have a war chest and have favors to call in from other elected officials and their political machines.
I’m not arguing that special elections shouldn’t be held promptly. Of course there’s no time to whine about how tough elections are when, for example, there’s the possibility of losing control of the U.S. Senate if Kerry were elected president in ’04 and Romney appointed a Republican to replace him. I’m just saying that there’s a lot a lot that goes into an election, perhaps it’s in the public interest to take elections one step at a time, get ’em right, and meanwhile have both sets of Senate offices staffed and responding to constituent issues while the process bears itself out.