Dems seek change on filling Senate vacancy

As we know, Jack Reed's mantra is that he is running for reelection and not about to take a Cabinet post in a Democratic administration.

On a related note, two General Assembly Democrats have filed legislation that would change the process for filling a US Senate vacancy.

STATE HOUSE – Rep. David Segal and Sen. Paul V. Jabour have submitted legislation that would require that U.S. Senate vacancies be filled by special elections. 


At present, the governor is empowered to appoint people to fill such vacancies. But the bill (2008-H 7586 and 2008-S 2324) would require that a special election be held to fill U.S. Senate vacancies, unless such a vacancy occurred after July 1 of an election year, in which case the vacancy would be filled per the regular general electoral cycle.


The sponsors say the current law is a vestige of an outdated system of electing senators, prior to the ratification of the 17th amendment in 1913, which called for the direct election of senators. Until that point, senators were chosen by state legislators. While the amendment called for the popular election of senators, it allowed for vacancies to be filled via other mechanisms.


“In the last 100 years, 151 U.S. senators have take office without being elected.  Incumbency affords great electoral advantages, and it is exceedingly likely that once appointed to office, a senator would readily achieve reelection,” said Representative Segal (D-Dist. 2, Providence, East Providence). “The only legitimate vehicle for ascension to a body as powerful as the Senate is popular support – only the passage of this legislation would ensure that the electorate determines its representative.”


Said Senator Jabour (D-Dist. 5, Providence), “Here in Rhode Island, we have legitimate cause for concern about this issue, since Sen. Jack Reed is a strong candidate for a cabinet appointment. If that were to occur, allowing voters to choose a replacement would be a much more democratic avenue than having one chosen solely by the governor. Regardless of whether the governor is a Democrat or a Republican, he or she shouldn’t have the only vote in choosing who will represent our state in the U.S. Senate.”


The bills have both had hearings before their respective chambers’ judiciary committees and are currently being held for further study.

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