Monday, July 19, 2010

Legislature Approves Special Election for U.S. Senate

Facing a likely legal challenge if the Governor unilaterally called for a Special Election to fill the vacancy created by the death of Sen. Robert C. Byrd, representatives from the WV Senate, House of Delegates, Governor's office and Secretary of State's office reached agreement earlier this evening and adopted HB 201 calling for a Special Election on Nov. 2. A primary election will be held on Aug. 28 to select nominees.

As late as Monday morning, it appeared doubtful that legislators would reach agreement, and the Governor was reportedly seriously considering calling for a Special Election by Executive Order or proclamation. However, the threat of a legal challenge, and the resulting delay a court challenge might present, provided motivation to continue agressively pursuing a legislative option.

After meetings during the day between the Governor and members of the House of Delegates and State Senate, the Conference Committee met at approximately 5:00 p.m. and formally reached agreement.

Final passage of the bill in the House was 83-7 in favor with 10 members absent. The Senate passed the bill 29-0. Members of the House Republican caucus, which voted as a block against the bill on Saturday, changed their votes and voted for the final bill Monday evening at 8:20 p.m.

The final bill treats the upcoming Special Election as an independent election, so current candidates on the November ballot, including Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, will be permitted to run for both offices concurrently.

The bill also limits the discretion of the Secretary of State to make changes in the operation of the Primary and Special Election. In addition, the legislation sunsets after this November, signaling that lawmakers intend to adopt more permanent changes when they convene for the 2011 Regular Session.

The filing period is a brief 4-day period beginning Tuesday and ending this Friday. Proposed provisions that would have eliminated the Primary if only one candidate filed were not included in the final bill.

It is expected that Gov. Joe Manchin will sign the bill immediately, and he is expected to announce his candidacy for the U.S. Senate Tuesday morning at the State Capitol.

UPDATE:
Kudos to Secretary of State Natalie Tennant and her team. Less than 3 hours after the legislation was adopted, they posted critical information about the Special Election online, including the Enrolled House Bill, Filing Documents, and an election calendar.

That is a very impressive accomplishment and helps ensure that the election is handled professionally. It also encourages participation from all prospective candidates and WV voters. (Whoever says government doesn't work efficiently needs to take notice of the work that Sec. Tennant and her staff have accomplished. Great job!) (Link to Special Election Information)
Cross posted at WVaBlue.com.