Special Election

Oklahoma law (Title 26, Sections 12-101 ff.) provides for Special Elections to be held when vacancies arise in the office of a member of Congress, the Legislature, or county commissioner.

The Governor must call a special election within 30 days after the vacancy occurs unless the vacancy occurs after March 1 of any even-numbered year if the term of the office expires the same year.

The Governor’s proclamation calling the special election must contain:

1.  A filing period of three (3) days, on a Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday not less than ten (10) days from the date of such proclamation;

2.  The date of the Special Primary Election, not less than twenty (20) days after the close of the filing period; and

3.  The date of the Special General Election, not less than twenty (20) days after the date of the Special Primary Election.

Special elections are run under the laws applicable to regular primary and general elections, except there is no primary runoff for special elections.

Winners of special elections serve the remainder of the unexpired term, except in certain circumstances when a member of the state House or Senate cannot complete an unexpired term due to state term limits (Title 26, Section 12-110.1).

Legislation passed in 2021 (SB 959) allows the Governor to fill a vacant U.S. Senate seat until the time of a special election and sets out the rules regarding the timing of a special election for the U.S. Senate. In cases when statewide offices become vacant, the position is filled by Gubernatorial appointment. If the Governor resigns or is removed from office, the position is filled by the Lieutenant Governor. 

The Governor can also call a special election to decide an initiative petition or veto referendum. The last such special election was held March 7, 2023 on State Question 820, an initiative petition to legalize recreational marijuana in Oklahoma, after legal challenge and delays in the signature-verification process left the measure without enough time to qualify for the November 2022 general election.