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Voter advocates say Hoosiers 'short-changed' by legislative resignations

The southwestern exterior of the Indiana Statehouse, at night.
Brandon Smith
IPB News
Four Indiana state lawmakers have resigned this year, leaving office less than a year after being reelected.

Some Indiana voter advocates say Hoosiers are “short-changed” when lawmakers resign in the middle of their terms.

Four legislators have stepped down this year, including two state senators who left office less than a year into their four-year terms.

Julia Vaughn, Common Cause Indiana executive director, said it’s particularly frustrating when lawmakers leave less than a year after being reelected.

"These are not folks who were new to the legislature, who weren’t familiar with the demands that the office has," Vaughn said. "These were experienced legislators, so I really wish they had thought longer and better and more into the future."

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Under state law, lawmakers who leave their seats early are replaced by private, partisan caucuses. Vaughn said it shouldn’t be party insiders who get to choose. She wants to see special elections.

“One of the arguments that has been made against having special elections in these cases is the expense,” Vaughn said. “So perhaps, as a deterrent, we could require the retiring legislator to chip in for the cost of a special election.”

Vaughn acknowledged that’s extremely unlikely, but said lawmakers should find a way for voters to have more of a say in replacing legislators who step down.

Brandon is our Statehouse bureau chief. Contact him at bsmith@ipbs.org or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.

Brandon Smith has covered the Statehouse for Indiana Public Broadcasting for more than a decade, spanning three governors and a dozen legislative sessions. He's also the host of Indiana Week in Review, a weekly political and policy discussion program seen and heard across the state. He previously worked at KBIA in Columbia, Missouri and WSPY in Plano, Illinois. His first job in radio was in another state capitol - Jefferson City, Missouri - as a reporter for three stations around the Show-Me State.