Death Triggers Nearly Half of U.S. House Special Elections

In less than two weeks, Nevada will hold its first special election to the U.S. House in state history, with 2nd Congressional District residents voting to fill the seat vacated by Republican Dean Heller who was appointed to the U.S. Senate after the resignation of scandal-plagued GOPer John Ensign. Over the last 50 years, there have been 220 special elections for the House of Representatives heading into the September 13th contests in Nevada and New York’s 9th CD (to fill Democrat Anthony Weiner’s seat). Nearly one out of two such elections during this span were caused by the death of the U.S. House member – with 102 such cases dating back to 1961 (46.3 percent). However, with the inclusion of NV-02 and NY-09, there have now been eight consecutive special elections conducted for seats vacated due to reasons other than death – the longest such streak during this five-decade long stretch. Well-known members of Congress to die in office during this span include Democrat Claude Pepper (FL-18), Republican Sonny Bono of California (CA-44), and Democrat John Murtha (PA-12).

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