It's unfortunate that only half of the allotted Democratic precinct committee votes will be cast in the election to replace Lawrence Rep. Troy Findley.
A small group of local Democrats will gather on Saturday to pick the next state representative for the 46th District.
Exactly 16 precinct committeemen and committeewomen are charged with making this decision for all of the people living in the district now represented by Rep. Troy Findley, who plans to resign Monday to take a post as Gov.-elect Kathleen Sebelius' legislative liaison. The chairman of the Douglas County Democratic Party already has been notified that one precinct representative won't be able to attend, so the number's down to 15.
That's exactly half of the number of people who should be voting on this important matter. Findley's district includes 15 voting precincts in eastern Lawrence. Each of those precincts is entitled to one man and one woman to represent it on the central committee, for a total of 30 potential committee voters. However, a lack of interest or concern has resulted in 14 unfilled committee spots in Findley's district. The county chairman is allowed to fill some of those vacancies by appointment, but not after a convention, like Saturday's scheduled meeting, has been called.
Political committee posts too often are overlooked. This time Democrats have been caught off guard when faced with an important decision. Local Republicans also were called upon following the November election to fill a legislative seat, the Senate post that will be vacated by Sandy Praeger when she takes office as state insurance commissioner. But because the party had some warning that a vacancy might occur, they were able to fill more seats during the August primary and muster a solid showing at the convention that elected Mark Buhler to replace Praeger.
Findley's departure came as more of a surprise, and 15 (or fewer) committee people are left holding all of the cards. Eight votes, a simple majority, can elect a new representative. The constituents of the district will be represented in the Kansas Legislature by someone for whom they didn't vote. And that person will be chosen by a group that represents a limited cross-section of the district.
It is, of course, still possible for the convention to choose a good representative for the district. Those 15 people should look for someone who is intelligent, well-motivated and knowledgeable about issues of concern to the district and the rest of the state. The committeepeople won't have much time to consider their decision, but it's important for the choice to be made in time for that person to be sworn in with fellow legislators on Monday.
Although the change will mean the 46th District will lose Findley, his knowledge of how the House works and the respect he enjoys among follow legislators, the change probably will occur without any dire consequences for the district. The process of replacing Findley however, could have been far more representative. It's a reminder of how important it is to maintain the party structures that kick into action when vacancies occur.