There is merit to another bill heard in Concord this week. It would require a special election whenever a state representative seat becomes vacant. But it should come with time limits.
Right now, the local selectmen or aldermanic board determines whether to schedule a special election during the two-year legislative term if a vacancy occurs. That may happen if a representative has died or moved out of his district or has been hauled off to serve time in the calaboose.
There are costs involved with such elections and a local board is more likely to schedule one if a term has just begun. If the vacancy occurs within a few months of the next regular election, the locals are probably right to leave things as is.
A Salem citizen said her big town saw three of its nine seats become vacant in 2017 and remain that way for all of last year as well. That seems too long for one-third of a town’s representation to be absent. But if the second of two annual sessions in a biennium is over and the next regular election is only months away, a special election would seem pointless.
It would be best to require such an election but set a timeframe during the biennium beyond which a special election would be prohibited.