Thursday, January 29, 2009

Special Elections for US Senators

From Markos at the Daily Kos comes this story about a proposed Constitutional amendment from Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin. Feingold says:

"The controversies surrounding some of the recent gubernatorial appointments to vacant Senate seats make it painfully clear that such appointments are an anachronism that must end. In 1913, the Seventeenth Amendment to the Constitution gave the citizens of this country the power to finally elect their senators. They should have the same power in the case of unexpected mid term vacancies, so that the Senate is as responsive as possible to the will of the people. I plan to introduce a constitutional amendment this week to require special elections when a Senate seat is vacant, as the Constitution mandates for the House, and as my own state of Wisconsin already requires by statute. As the Chairman of the Constitution Subcommittee, I will hold a hearing on this important topic soon."


As Feingold notes, the Constitution was amended in 1913 to allow direct election of US senators. Before then, senators were elected by state legislatures (the Founders thought of the Senate as representing the states, rather than the people), so it was reasonable for mid-term vacancies to be filled by state governors. Once the decision was made to directly elect senators, it would have been equally reasonable to have vacancies filled by special elections, but the men who drafted the Seventeenth Amendment decided to let the governors keep their appointment power.

I happen to think this is a good idea, and so have the people of thirteen of the states who have already amended their state constitutions to allow for special elections for senatorial vacancies. I'll be contacting Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and asking them to support Feingold, and if you think this is a good idea, you'll want to do the same.
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