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Originally published Monday, March 19, 2012 at 3:31 PM

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Don't confuse race for 1st Congressional District

Washington election officials should avoid the confusion of a double election for 1st Congressional District — one to fill the one month left in the unexpired term of Jay Inslee, who resigned, and the other to fill the next two year term.

Seattle Times Editorial

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U.S. REP. Jay Inslee already has confounded 1st Congressional District voters by quitting his job, leaving constituents unrepresented in the months ahead. The Bainbridge Island Democrat leaves Congress this week to devote more time to running for governor.

Now election officials are pondering a strange double election in November: one to replace Inslee in December, another to fill the seat for the following two years.

That would be the normal course of events, but a federal rule complicates things. Congressional officials do not recognize newly drawn districts until the next term of Congress begins, Jan. 3.

That means current 1st District residents would vote to fill the seat for December. Voters in the new 1st District would pick the two-year representative.

Bad idea. Too confusing for everyone.

Redistricting has changed the 1st District significantly. Less than 44 percent of voters currently living in the district will reside in the newly created district, said David Ammons, spokesman for Secretary of State Sam Reed.

If Gov. Chris Gregoire has discretion in this matter, she should leave the term unfilled in December to avoid confusion. The term is described as a month but is closer to two weeks because of the timing of the election and holiday recess.

"We started out with the presumption we could fill the vacancy the way we do with other state elections," said Ammons. "If you have a vacancy, you fill it at the next election, a simultaneous election for the short and long term with the same voters."

Ideally, Inslee would have resigned earlier; there would have been time for a special election and full representation for constituents.

But under these circumstances, if there is any way to leave that seat unfilled one more month and avoid confusion, that is the better choice.

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