Gabrielle Giffords' Seat Would be Filled Through Special Election in the Event of Her Departure From Office

If Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is unable to carry out her duties, Governor Jan Brewer would call a special election.

​As Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords remains hospitalized and in critical condition after taking a bullet through the brain during Saturday's shooting spree in Tucson, it's unclear who will fill her seat in the U.S. House of Representatives if she's unable to finish her two-year term.

Should the congresswoman not be able to finish her term, here's what would go down:

While Giffords' seat could become open through resignation, or in the case of her death, the U.S. Constitution mandates that, in the case of a vacancy in the House, the only way to fill a seat is through an election in the district.

There is no specific provision for the presumed incapacitation of a sitting House member, although a procedure does exist to remove the congresswoman from her seat if she is unable to perform her duties.

The only time this was performed was in 1981, when the House voted to declare Maryland Representative Gladys Spellman's seat vacant four months after she became comatose from a heart attack. She remained in a coma until her death in 1988.

In any circumstance in which Giffords' seat would become vacated, Governor Jan Brewer would be required to call a special election within 72 hours, which would follow the format of an actual election, including party nominations.

The newly elected representative would serve the remainder of Giffords' original term, which would last until 2012.

Giffords defeated Republican newcomer and Iraq war veteran Jesse Kelly by fewer than 4,000 votes in the November election, which may hint toward where that seat would land if it were vacated by the incumbent Giffords.

Until Giffords is gone or back, the congresswoman's staff can help constituents with information about legislation or casework, but nobody can vote in the House on her behalf.

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Cat  Hussein Ballou
Cat Hussein Ballou

The tone of this is all wrong. Notice how it is mostly the right wing bloggers and Fox news skiddling out like half starved weasels before a week has passed since her hospitalization? No one asked for or needs a pack of vultures-in-waiting to "assist" when federal statute and precedents are firmly in place to answer such issues should they arise in the future, within the U.S. House of Representatives, where they belong.


Nobody is dancing on her grave. It is necessary to continue on no matter what. It is necessary for the public to be aware of the situation always. The citizens should always be paying attention and be ready to go forward.


I can't believe this! Dancing on her grave and she's still alive. This is SO unnecessary and cruel. Of course, as Tod says, there should be plans for all possible contingencies. But it's not like *we* have to make them and will do so via the newspaper.

Those plans are already in existence and there's no need to trot them out just yet. The woman is alive, improving daily. Let her family have all the hope and good wishes they can get at this time. There is no rush to bury her just yet.


@ Steve

No. At times of need/distress there always has to be some one planning for any eventual out come.

If miracles occur and you don't need those plans, awesome.

But it isn't premature. It's just good, prudent due diligence. Nothing more, nothing less.

Steve Muratore
Steve Muratore

The only value in bringing this issue to the fore right now is to underscore the need to support Gabby as she heals. Anything else is premature.


Jesus Leia- CHILL a bit- really!!! Nobody is talking about "burying her" or not hoping for her full recovery and there is nothing cruel about simply asking the question. There will be alot of people wondering how long both the House and AZ can go without her being able to carry out her duties. I for one would like to see them wait many, many months and give her the chance to POSSIBLY recover enough to carry out her duties and vote on issues critical for both the state as well as the country.

The question does have to be asked though- what if, she is too incapacitated, what if she couldn't really leave home fo too long a period of time. She could resign if she is able to do that, The House could vote to remove her if she takes a turn for the worse and really cannot function.

Le't absolutely hope and out our energy into a recovery that could get her back where we all want her, but still- what happens just in case?

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