2018 is going to mark the year of special elections.
Between misconduct allegations, members aging out, or others just ready for a life change, sitting state and federal officeholders across the country are leaving office before their terms end, causing waves of special elections.
Each state has a unique process to determine who will fill those seats once vacated. Some vacant seats are filled through appointments by the state’s governor. Others are filled by appointments from within the party vacating. Others are filled by a conferee process, as is the case in Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania recently held a conferee process to nominate their candidate for the special election to fill the vacated PA-18 seat.
In Pennsylvania, each party holds a conferee process to nominate their candidate to run in the special election. Each county within the congressional district automatically receives one conferee vote. From there, each county is given one vote for every thousand votes for president that county secured. For example, if a county had 3,500 votes for President Trump in 2016, they would get an additional four conferees, bringing their total number of conferee votes to 5.
The conferees are selected by the county chairmen, who submit that list to the state party. The Republican Party of Pennsylvania then selects a date to hold the conferee nominating process. On the day of the conferee vote, delegates must elect a fifty percent plus one of the conferees to secure the party nomination. If more than two candidates throw their name in the hat, the vote may go to rounds if no candidate reaches the fifty percent plus one on the first ballot.
It is important to note the integral role the county chairs play in these decisions, and further, how important of a role those who are active in their county apparatus are to ultimately making these key decisions in the process.
If you are a candidate or staffer, special elections are a reminder that those on the ground – those in the background at the local level who sometimes can be overlooked – are extremely crucial to the process.