We're getting what feels like a lot of churn in the Legislature, and it's not even an election year. In the last couple months, four three* legislators have chosen not to complete the terms to which their neighbors elected them last November. Jon Hansen will trade his District 25 House seat for law school, where he will study how to better oppress women and probably cash in on state lawyer welfare payments. District 16's Patty Miller is leaving the House for family reasons. And now Mark Johnston is leaving his District 12 Senate seat to take a promotion at Sanford Health.

I understand the beranklement Mr. Ehrisman expresses:

Here they go again, playing their little games. Resigning before their term is up so the governor can appoint a FAKE incumbent. This is beginning to get a little ridiculous [Scott Ehrisman, "Another SD Republican Bails Before Finishing Their [sic] Term," South Dacola, 2013.05.02].

I will grant Johnston et al. a little more leeway for their choices to abdicate. Stuff happens. Life changes. Problems and opportunities arise. You can't always do what you were sure you wanted to do a year or a month ago.

I wonder, though: do we leave the door too wide open for members of the Governor's party to leave when they know the Governor gets to replace them? The Governor's appointment doesn't automatically go to a fellow partisan (remember, Daugaard is talking to Ann Tornberg about Miller's seat!), but knowing that they can do their boss a favor by giving him a chance to do a fellow partisan a favor has to grease the decision a little. So must the knowledge that, with succession by appointment, they can resign without imposing on their neighbors the cost of an election.

But special elections are a small price to pay for accountable legislators. Outside of our two-month session, there is little urgency in appointing a replacement. Filling the seats of resigning South Dakota legislators could easily wait a few months, giving time for interested candidates to petition and campaign, for Secretary Gant to print ballots, and for local voters to pick their new poison.

We'd need a constitutional amendment to allow special elections to fill Legislative vacancies. It looks like some folks tried and failed to amend that provision in 1974 and 1976. Anyone care to try again?

*I originally counted four, thinking Rep. Jim Bolin (R-16/Canton) was resigning to run for Commissioner of School and Public Lands. As Kal Lis notes below, Rep. Jim Bolin has not announced a resignation.