Thursday, February 26, 2009

A Special Election to Replace Burris? Maybe

Frustrated Illinoisans have been pleading with representatives in Springfield for a special election to replace U.S. Senator Roland Burris (Democrat) for some time. There is at least one concerted petition effort to that end. Today (Feb. 26), Eric Zorn notes in his Chicago Tribune column that some Democrats are actually saying they could get behind a special election. (Don't hold your breath.) In fact, since before former governor Rod Blagojevich (Democrat; photo right) filled the seat by appointing him to fill the seat vacated by that Obama guy. Now, reports Zorn, there may some hope for advocates of a special election. This would mark an about face by Democrats who so fiercly opposed a special while Blago was still in charge. They blew it then. Will they blow it again? My guess: Maybe. Even as Zorn was filing his report, The Daily Herald filed a report that gives a more optimistic (albeit it only slightly moreso) report: The Illinois General Assembly can constitutionally pass a law that moves up the date of the next election for President Barack Obama's former Senate seat, said Attorney General Lisa Madigan. State Republicans sought Madigan's opinion, issued late Wednesday night, which came as controversy swirls around Sen. Roland Burris' appointment. Full Story... Yes, well, okay, Madigan (Democrat) says it can happen. She did not say that it will happen. Huge difference there, and it's up to the state legislature, which is controlled by Democrats, who turned down an opportunity late last year to make it happen. Why did they turn it down? Purely for political self interest. Rather than risk losing the senate seat to a Republican, Democrats broke their promise for a special election in a party-before-people power play. The Illinois Republican Party states the following on their "Freinds of Blago" website: Following the arrest of the Governor, Blagojevich Democrats promised to strip Rod of his appointment power and proposed a special election to give people a vote in choosing their next U.S. Senator. Illinois Republicans agreed and waged a vigorous grassroots campaign for a vote of the people – a campaign where thousands of people responded. Unfortunately, Blagojevich Democrats broke their promise to the people and allowed a tainted governor to appoint Roland Burris. Now our junior senator faces questions about his testimony before the Blagojevich Impeachment Panel and House Democrats are accused of covering it up. Irony abounds here. Barack Obama, whose former senate seat this is all about, promised "change" and a new way of doing things. What are we getting? The same old Democrat way of doing things in Illinois. No change here. Zorn quotes DePaul University College of Law professor Jeffrey Shaman on the subject. He specializes in the Constitution, and Zorn notes that Shaman has his doubts: Shaman pointed out that the legislature already directed when such elections are to take place. State law, in effect when Burris was sworn in, says temporary senators serve "until the next election of representatives in Congress"—in this case, November 2010. Shaman said, "You can't change a law like that retroactively. And if you did, it would then require removing a duly appointed senator by extralegal means. The Constitution says senators may be removed only through impeachment." True, you can't change the law "retroactively." But what the good professor seems to miss, and this layman fully understands, is that any law can be amended or replaced, affecting all things subsequent to such changes. Let's say the law is changed so that a special election would be allowed to fill a vacant US Senate seat. Then, after that law is in effect, Roland Burris were to be impeached. No problem. Law in place, seat vacated, special election. Is that so difficult that a layman has to explain it to a Constitutional "expert?" Zorn seems to favor the idea of a special election. However, he ends on a pessimistic note: "I suspect it will all be an academic exercise," Zorn wrote, "The fine idea of the Democrats who control state government will be to give lip service to this fine idea. But because it could result in a Republican taking Obama's former seat, they'll quietly kill it before real judges get to decide." Like I said: Maybe. Don't hold your breath. RELATED: Illinois special Senate election idea hits trouble - Feb 25, 2009 Burris Special Election Blocked By Top Illinois Dems- Feb 25, 2009 Illinois GOP Renews Calls for Special Election Illinois' Embarrassing Timeline Chicago News Bench Merchandise Chicago News Bench RSS Feed