The farces over vacant Senate seats in Illinois and New York left me wondering how California would replace a senator if, for example, aliens kidnapped Barbara Boxer* (D-Moron). While burning incense before the Oracle of Google, I came across a couple of articles by Eric Zorn for the Chicago Tribune, who, after the Blagojevich scandal broke, started looking into how other states do it.
*(Oh please, God, let it happen! I promise to be good! )
The answer in the Golden State’s case is that the Governor may appoint a replacement to fill out the term, or he can call a special election.
Not bad, but the ability to appoint a replacement without recourse to a vote is a relic of the pre-1913 procedure, which allowed state legislatures to pick senators. The 17th amendment changed that to a direct election, making the process more democratic.
Like Zorn, I prefer a special election to fill vacant seats. But special elections can be a financial burden on county governments, especially with revenues declining in a recession, so saving time and money with an appointment would be desirable, too.
The best solution in my opinion would be to modify California’s law in the following manner:
- If less than a year remains in the alien-abducted senator’s term, the governor appoints a replacement to fill out the term until the next general election.
- If more than a year remains, the governor appoints a replacement to fill the seat until the next statewide general election, for example for congressmen or state governor.
- In either case, the governor must appoint someone from the same party as the previous holder, to prevent partisan shenanigans.
This way, the people get to make their choice, the state doesn’t lose a Senate vote for more than a few days, and the election costs no extra money, as it piggybacks on an already scheduled vote.
And for my next trick, I shall pull a rabbit from my hat….