Appoint or Elect to Fill Senate Holes?


Indiana is among 36 states that fill what are seemingly rare U.S. Senate vacancies with gubernatorial appointments. The death of West Virginia’s Robert Byrd this week, however, means there will be six such non-elected senators serving in Congress. Several states have moved toward special elections. The Christian Science Monitor reports:

All these caretakers – representing Illinois, Delaware, New York, Colorado, and Florida – have reignited questions over whether a gubernatorial appointment, rather than a special election, is the best way to fill a vacant Senate seat. In particular, allegations of misbehavior in Illinois during the filling of President Obama’s former Senate seat spurred a move in some state legislatures to change the way vacancies are filled.

Historically, most states have given governors the right to appoint an interim senator in the case of a vacancy. But Illinois hasn’t been the only recent flash point: The awkward process by which New York Gov. David Paterson (D) went about filling the seat of Hillary Rodham Clinton, who resigned to become secretary of State, added fuel to the reform movement. Caroline Kennedy, daughter of the late President Kennedy, openly lobbied for the New York seat until she withdrew her name from contention.

Of the 12 states that considered legislation to fill Senate vacancies by special election, Connecticut and Rhode Island were the only ones that passed it in 2009, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. It also passed in Kansas but was vetoed by the governor. Legislation is still alive in Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *