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Rep. David Cicilline speaks during a House committee hearing in Washington, D.C.
Rep. David Cicilline speaks during a House committee hearing in Washington, D.C. in 2020.Graeme Jennings / Washington Examiner/Bloomberg via Getty Images file

Rhode Island special election date will wait until Cicilline vacates seat

According to state election law, the governor cannot call a special election until a House seat has actually been vacated.


In the wake of Rep. David Cicilline's announcement that he'll leave Congress this summer to head the Rhode Island Foundation, Democrats and Republicans are eyeing an upcoming special election.

But, they'll have to wait before things can really get underway in Rhode Island's 1st District.

In a statement, Cicilline, a Democrat, said he plans to leave Congress at the end of May, and he'll start his new job on June 1.

According to Rhode Island's election law, the state's governor has the authority to call for a special election, but he may not do so until there is actually a vacancy in representation.

That means Gov. Dan McKee won't be able to set a date for a special election until late May or early June.

Beyond that, things get murky. The state's law doesn't provide an exact date or specific timeline for a special election, so it's mostly up the governor's discretion, the Rhode Island Secretary of State's office confirmed.

The only guidance Rhode Island's law gives is that the governor must call for the election to be "at as early a date ... as will be in compliance with the provisions of law in relation to these elections."

It also stipulates that the special election must be held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday of a new month, but doesn't specify how many months after the vacancy occurs the election ought to be.