How Should Replacement U. S. Senators Be Chosen?


Last month, state Rep. Julie Hamos (D-IL) sent out an e-mail asking her constituency to fill out an on-line survey with their opinion of whether Illinois should change its law to hold special elections to replace US Senators.

In the survey, Hamos asked how replacement U. S. Senators should be chosen in case of a vacancy. The three options to the survey were: if a special election should be held or not, or not changing the Illinois law and waiting for changes to the US Constitution for consistency in all states.

This initiative came during the controversy surrounding new US Sen. Roland Burris (D-IL), who was appointed by Governor Rod Blagojevich just a few weeks before Blagojevich was impeached.
Burris is now under investigation “by both the US Senate Ethics Committee for ethics violations and the state’s attorney of Sangamon County for a possible perjury prosecution,” Hamos stated in the Feb. 20 e-mail.

Burris—once an Illinois Attorney General and the first African-American to be elected to an Illinois statewide office when he became state comptroller in 1983—was chosen to fill President Barack Obama’s vacant Senate seat by Blagojevich on Dec. 30 last year. Burris first came under attack by the media, congressional members and others following the controversy surrounding Blagojevich’s alleged attempt to sell the vacant Senate seat and “after the Illinois House of Representatives dropped plans to schedule a special election for the spot,” according to the Blagojevich at the time.

Hamos, who voted to impeach Blagojevich, stated that she was thinking ahead to the next steps since “Illinois remains in political crisis.”

Under current law, Burris will serve as senator until the November 2010 election. In the meantime, if he decides to run for that office again, he will have to announce his intentions, file his petitions by October of this year, and then face the voters in the Democratic primary in February 2010, according to Hamos.

If Burris resigns, is removed by the Senate, or is convicted of perjury, another vacancy would occur in Illinois’ US Senate seat, she added.

Also under current law, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn—who called for Burris to resign “for the good of the state”—would fill the appointment and that person would serve until the next election in November 2010. To keep the job beyond 2010, Hamos said “that person likewise would have to face the voters in the primary election in February 2010.

“We could proceed immediately to change the state law to provide for a special election if a vacancy occurs in the US Senate seat this year,” Hamos stated.

To make sure that Illinois has the full representation of two U. S. Senators, Hamos added that “the law could be further clarified to provide for a temporary appointment by the governor until the special election is concluded.”

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