No Senate seat should ever be filled by gubernatorial appointment.
To do so gives one man or woman the authority to place a stamp on the affairs of the nation that ought only be affixed by the voters.
Unfortunately, most states allow for the appointment of senators — sometimes until a special election, sometimes for the remainder of a term.
Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold has proposed a constitutional amendment requiring that all senators be elected, just as all House members must face the voters before taking their seats. And after the messy — and at times, it appears corrupted — processes that saw replacements for Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton and Ken Salazar chosen by gubernatorial appointment, legislators in a number of states around the country have began efforts to assure that their senators are elected.
Unfortunately, West Virginia has not updated its laws to respect the democratic process.
Thus, though the state outlines a procedure for a special election, the West Virginia Secretary of State interpreted the law as saying that Governor Joe Manchin should appoint a replacement for the late Senator Robert Byrd to serve until November of 2012. Manchin is a potential replacement for Byrd but he says he won’t appoint himself, which is good news.
The better news is that Machin now says he will delay making an appointment until a determination is made about whether a special election can be held this year. "I believe in the power of the vote. I believe in the election process. Two and a half years to appoint someone to fill the shoes of Robert C. Byrd is too long," the governor said Wednesday morning. "There is reasonable concern that there should be clarity to this, and that is why I am asking the attorney general [Darrell McGraw] to render a legal opinion on this as quickly as possible."
Manchin’s move followed an outcry that led state officials to begin weighing proposals to rewrite state law in order to hold a special election this fall. A special legislative session that is already scheduled to begin July 19 could do the job, and Derek Scarbro, the executive director of the West Virginia Democratic Party, says he is finding strong support for the idea from both Democrats and Republicans for calling a special election. "A lot of other groups have come out in favor of it now, too," Scarbro tells The Hill.