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Constitutional Amendment Would Stop Governors’ Appointments To Senate

Publication Date: 
March 16, 2009
Kansas City InfoZine
Caitlyn Zachry

Professor Pamela S. Karlan is quoted in the Kansas City InfoZine in an article about a joint hearing of the House and Senate Judiciary Subcommittees addressing the current process for filling Senate vacancies by appointment, rather than through a special election:

The amendment would change the process of filling Senate vacancies to make it identical to the House process - most states allow governors to appoint senators, but representatives must be chosen through an election.


"The arguments against filling Senate vacancies solely by election stem not from principle, but from practicality," said Pamela Karlan of Stanford Law School.

An associate dean and professor of law at University of California-Davis, Vikram Amar, stressed that in larger states, including Texas, an election for a senator would likely be much more time-consuming than an election for a representative. However, Karlan, who worked on California's gubernatorial recall election, said a statewide election could take as little as three months. Special elections need not be a slow process, especially if states skip primaries and use conventions to nominate candidates.


When it comes to the time it takes for an election "a few months is not too long to go without representation, as such appointments are inherently undemocratic, said Common Cause President Robert Edgar.

Karlan agreed, pointing out that governors frequently choose representatives who would never be elected - only a third of appointees win another term.

"At the level of principle, vacancies should be filled by the same method used to select senators in the first place," she said.