(INDIANAPOLIS) – Indiana’s line of succession if a governor resigns or dies currently includes an office that doesn’t exist any more. Legislators have started the process of changing that.
Indiana hasn’t had to reach beyond the lieutenant governor to fill a vacancy in the governor’s office in nearly 200 years. But like the federal government, the law spells out who’s next in line just in case. Seventh and last is the superintendent of public instruction. When superintendent Jennifer McCormick completed her term 13 months ago, that office ceased to exist — the legislature voted in 2019 to replace the job with an appointed secretary of education.
The House voted 87-6 last month to remove the office from the mix to make the line of succession exclusively elected officials. The full Senate could vote next week, but the process won’t be complete for nearly three years. If the Senate votes yes, the House and Senate must reapprove the amendment in 2023 or 2024, then send it to the voters for final approval in the 2024 election.
Nine lieutenant governors have ascended to the governorship when the governor died or resigned, most recently Joe Kernan after the death of Governor Frank O’Bannon. The only time a further line of succession has been invoked was in 1825, when the governor and lieutenant governor were elected to the U.S. Senate and House, elevating Senate president pro tem James Ray to the governorship under the law at the time.
The current succession law after the lieutenant governor begins with the speaker of the House before turning to the president of the Senate, then proceeds through the state treasurer, auditor, and secretary of state. The law also limits those five officials to two days as governor. The General Assembly is required to reconvene within that time and elect a new governor, from the same party as the original one.