So, looking at the unseemly spectacle involved in replacing the various senators who have resigned to take posts in the new Obama administration, Russ Feingold suggests that it's time we give up on letting governors appoint senators when a seat becomes vacant. For the first century or so of this country, we didn't get to elect senators; the state legislatures did that for us. That had come to seem so patently undemocratic that they changed the process to allow for direct election, just as with a state's governor, with the 17th Amendment (1913) -- a measure which was so popular that it was ratified in only a year. Now, almost a century after that, Feingold suggests it's time to follow through and make replacement senators be chosen by special elections rather than making it a really nice executive perk of the governor, as is the case in most states.
I've always rather liked the idea of appointments to fill out terms myself -- we've gotten some interesting people in office that way who would otherwise never have gotten in, like Hattie Carraway. But recently Paterson's incompetence, and Blagovich's corruption, has so tainted the process that I think Feingold's suggestion at least needs to be seriously considered, and I don't have much doubt that this is the way we'll ultimately go, whether now or later in piecemeal fashion. Nate Silver at fivethirtyeight.com argues that while special elections are expensive, what better way is there to spend money in a democracy than in setting up and running a free and fair election?
here's the link:
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