Elect, Don't Appoint, Senators

Our own Gabe has written an excellent op-ed for the Courant that argues that U.S. Senate vacancies should trigger a special election instead of a gubernatorial appointment. He’s absolutely right, too.

Go give it a read.

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12 responses to “Elect, Don't Appoint, Senators

  1. Our own Gabe has written an excellent op-ed

    Hmmm… Mr. Bigelow, what’s so excellent about this 748 words op-ed?

    That Mr. Rosenberg has made it to his word quota? What was it 750 or 800 words?

    Or, his bottom-line – “We have a robust democracy in this in this state” – the common sense of a poly-saturated pseudo-liberal state?

    And/or a biased media?

    Or the ingenuity of a young child perhaps – say, an eighth grader – who could have done better with a single sentence?

    Respectfully,

    Boaz ItsHaky
    http://www.boforcongress.com
    http://twitter.com/BoazItsHaky

  2. sister or cousin of roughly one-third of the current Congress. Uh-huh.

    The only constitutional requirements for a senator are age, citizenship and residency. To which states should add one more: They must be elected..

    Pretty poor legal research:
    The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, elected by the people thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote. The electors in each State shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the State legislatures.

    When vacancies happen in the representation of any State in the Senate, the executive authority of such State shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies: Provided, That the legislature of any State may empower the executive thereof to make temporary appointments until the people fill the vacancies by election as the legislature may direct.

  3. The only qualification in the bit you quoted and italicized refers to the voters who choose Senators.

    The last line of the bit that you quoted and didn’t italicize is the part of the 17th Amendment that makes it possible for States to provide for special elections to fill vacancies.

    One clause after the line in the Constitution that that part made inoperative is located the qualifications for Senators (Article I, Section 3, Clause 3):

    No person shall be a Senator who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty Years, and been nine Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State for which he shall be chosen.

    Age, citizenship, residency.

    If you are interested, also see Powell v. McCormack (Congress can’t add to the list of qualifications – “in judging the qualifications of its members Congress is limited to the standing qualifications prescribed in the Constitution”) and U.S. Term Limits v. Thornton (the States can’t either – “If the qualifications set forth in the text of the Constitution are to be changed, that text must be amended”). Both cases explicitly refer to Article I, Section 3, Clause 3 as laying out the qualifications for membership in the Senate.

  4. I was referring to the contention that the requirement Senators be elected should be added — it’s already in the Constitution.

  5. I think there’s a big matter of practicality. If there’s a Senate vacancy (especially an unforseen one), then having only 90 days to elect the next Senator is a bit time compressed. You need to give a little time for people to file the paperwork to announce their candidacies. Candidates need the ability to raise money. Then you need to have primaries, then the regular election. It’s different for a house race and senate race in that the senate race involves the entire state. Furthermore, a Senate vacancy is more significant than a house vacancy. So I think in terms of practicality, some form of appointment is necessary. I’m not opposed to systems where the governor has to choose from a list.

    I think the last time a Senator was appointed by a governor from a different party than the Senator he replaced was when the governor of Georgia selected Zell Miller. That didn’t end up so well for the Democrats…

  6. I think there’s a big matter of practicality. If there’s a Senate vacancy (especially an unforseen one), then having only 90 days to elect the next Senator is a bit time compressed. You need to give a little time for people to file the paperwork to announce their candidacies. Candidates need the ability to raise money. Then you need to have primaries, then the regular election. It’s different for a house race and senate race in that the senate race involves the entire state. Furthermore, a Senate vacancy is more significant than a house vacancy. So I think in terms of practicality, some form of appointment is necessary. I’m not opposed to systems where the governor has to choose from a list.

    There are no “practical” obstacles to democratically electing an interim Senator. A number of other States are able to do it – we are not incapable of creating a system that can work.

    Prior to 1947, Connecticut filled Senate vacancies in the same way they filled Congressional ones – by democratic election. In 1947, the legislature replaced the election provision with a gubernatorial appointment. At the time, the Governor, State Senate, and House where held by the same party. Interestingly, in 1947 Connecticut elected a Senator (Baldwin) from the same party. He served briefly, resigning to soon thereafter to take a Judicial position. It is plausible – knowing what we know of the political-jockeying of party leaders – that the party in power knew of the plans of Baldwin and sought to change the system to assure they could chose his replacement (ironically, the party lost power before the new appointment). These things are almost always more political than logical.

    9 states provide for a special election. Let’s fix our system now, rather than wait for a Blagojevich moment that would force legislators to fix the system under a darker cloud of public perception.

  7. So, following the departure of a sitting Senator an important issue comes up — e.g. Legislation putting a LNG terminal in Long Island Sound — it would be better for CT to have only 1 Senate vote than an appointed Senator?

  8. ….rather than wait for a Blagojevich moment …

    Just exactly what is your problem with Roland Burris?

    The man has an impressive resume and an even more impressive record of civic activity.

    I would hope your opposition to Burris (for whatever reason you might have) , has nothing in common with Harry Reid’s.

  9. Hmmmm – 2nd link didn’t take; try this instead.

  10. So, following the departure of a sitting Senator an important issue comes up — e.g. Legislation putting a LNG terminal in Long Island Sound — it would be better for CT to have only 1 Senate vote than an appointed Senator?

    Good question. I didn’t want to get into logistics, but like other states, it is very possible that there could be a statutory provision for an interim appointment until the special election. Again, we are not incapable of creating a system that can work.

    There are no “practical” obstacles to democratically electing an interim Senator. A number of other States are able to do it – we are not incapable of creating a system that can work.

  11. Just exactly what is your problem with Roland Burris?

    You miss the point if you don’t recognize that in the run up to the Burris appointment, the political baggage surrounding the Senate vacancy in Illinois was “a bit” tainted.

  12. The unfortunately named Fredric Dicker, a scrivener who writes for the authoritative New York Post is asserting in his column that “ Despite claims that he’s still undecided, Gov. Paterson is ‘certain’ to pick Caroline Kennedy to replace Hillary Rodham Clinton in the US Senate, several unhappy contenders for the job have told friends and associates in recent days. ‘

    Why so?

    Morose contenders, says Dicker, “based their conclusion on the view that Paterson, after nearly two months of indecision, would ‘greatly embarrass’ and “entirely humiliate” Kennedy, anger her prominent political family and even offend President-elect Barack Obama by picking someone other than President John F. Kennedy’s daughter.”

    Corruption busting Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, viewed by some Democrat accomplices in the media as lacking the experience to preside over the sleep inducing senate as Vice President, no doubt is preparing a congratulatory note to the inexperienced Caroline.

    There are also emotional and aesthetic reasons why Paterson should choose Caroline, whose uncle, the renowned Sen. Ted Kennedy, will soon be begging admittance at Heaven’s gate: His soul will rest easy knowing that — Camelot lives!

    And Caroline’s elevation to the US Senate will scotch forever the notion that one needs experience to be a US senator, good riddens to it.

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