Maryland awoke Thursday to learn that U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings had died from complications of longstanding health problems.

Some flooded social media with an outpouring of condolences for Cummings’ family and warm memories of the fiery Democratic congressman.

But others wondered what happens when a seated member of U.S. Congress dies in the middle of his or her term?

Related Story: Elijah Cummings’ widow expected to run for his House seat

Here’s what you need to know:

What happens to the seat?

When a Maryland congressional seat becomes vacant, Gov. Larry Hogan has 10 days to issue a proclamation stating a special primary election and a special general election will be held to fill the vacancy, according to the law. The seat will remain vacant until then.

The special primary election shall be held on a Tuesday that is at least 65 days after the proclamation was issued and the special general election shall be held on a Tuesday that is at least 65 days after the primary.

That’s near the end of February at the absolute earliest.

“The whole process could be five months,” said Jared DeMarinis, the state elections board’s director of candidacy and campaign finance. “And that’s moving it along.”

Hogan’s spokesman, Mike Ricci, said Thursday morning that it wasn’t clear yet when the special election would take place.

The elections board needs that window of time to get procedures in order. Ballots will need to be printed and sent out, along with other logistics.

“What we’re waiting for is when the governor issues the proclamation,” DeMarinis said. “That fills in all the gaps.”

Rep. Carolyn Maloney becomes acting chair of House Oversight Committee after Elijah Cummings’ death

Flag lowered

Federal law dictates that United States flags be lowered to half-staff on the day of death and the following day for a member of Congress.

Hogan has also ordered Maryland flags to be lowered “to honor the life and legacy of Cummings.”

Has this happened before?

DeMarinis said the last time Maryland held a special congressional election was 2008, when Donna Edwards filled the remaining term for Rep. Al Wynn, who resigned.

Baltimore Sun reporters Talia Richman and Pamela Wood contributed to this article.

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