Senator Robert Byrd Dies; West Virginia Law is Ambiguous About Whether Special Election Must be Held

On June 28, U.S. Senator Robert Byrd died.  He had been first elected to that seat in 1958, and was 92 years old.  West Virginia law says a special election must be held if the vacancy occurred more than two and one-half years before the end of the term.  The next regular election for this seat would have been in 2012.  Byrd died more than two and one-half years before end of his term.  So, one would think there will be a special election in 2010 to fill the last two years of his seat.

On the other hand, there is no provision for a special election that occurs too late for a primary, and no provision for a special primary.  West Virginia’s primary this year was May 11.  See this Washington Post story.

The Washington Post story does not mention that the deadline for independent candidates, and for the nominees of unqualified parties, is August 1.  In theory, candidates could get on the ballot for a special election by petition, if they act fairly quickly, but how this impacts on the state’s decision on whether to hold a special election is undetermined.  UPDATE:  the deadline is July 30, not August 1.  Thanks to Jeff Becker for that correction.


Senator Robert Byrd Dies; West Virginia Law is Ambiguous About Whether Special Election Must be Held — 11 Comments

  1. The Minor Party / Independent Candidate filing deadline is Friday, July 30 this year (August 1 falls on a Sunday). There were 702308 votes* cast in the previous U.S. Senate election of 2008 where Rockefeller was reelected. 1% of that works out to 7024 valid signatures being required. With a typical 70% validity rate in this state, some 10,000+ raw signatures would be required in just over a month’s time to secure ballot access.

    Given that that the Libertarian Party collected about 12,000 signatures for president in only three weeks in 2008, it is doable. However, a write-in candidacy seems more feasible since it has no filing fees or signature requirement. The C-7 Application form is available as a prf download from the WVSOS website – due notarized NLT Sept. 21. FYI.


  2. Mountain Party…get to work.

    Is there anyway to nominate by convention for this special election?

  3. The time for slow motion special vacancy elections has long passed — think 7 Dec 1941 — surprise attack on the U.S.A. along with 4 suicide-killer planes on 911.

    Each candidate/incumbent should have a rank order list of replacements for any vacancies during a term of office.

    Legislative power must be 24/7 and at 100 percent.

    P.R. and App.V.

    Did Byrd vote to increase the U.S.A. national debt more than any other human — and get the most U.S.A. cash per capita put into WV during his time in office ???

  4. No “special” election until November 2012 where there will be TWO (2) U.S. Senate elections on the same day, one for the five weeks between Nov 6, 2012 and January 2013, and the other for the full 6-year term that begins January 2013.

    WV Sec of State Natalie Tenant just made the announcement:

    Notice how Ms. Tenant describes WV election law as “an interesting document.” What she really means is that it is completely screwed-up. COME ON! The Democrats, and everybody KNEW that Byrd was planning to die in office. They have known this as well as his frail health for YEARS and have had plenty of Democrat controlled legislative sessions to get this thing fixed. There is no reason that we can’t have a special election in an off year like spring 2011. That’s why they call it a “special” election. There is nothing special about general election day.

  5. The Green Party in West Virginia aka the Mountain Party, led by Jesse Johnson and a fine group of people, are on this.

    If there is an election, with ballot status, the Green Party/Mountain Party is sure to have a strong candidate.

  6. West Virginia GOP may sue to force special election

    The executive director of West Virginia’s Republican Party said Monday afternoon that the party is “examining its legal options” after it was announced that there will be no special election this year to fill the seat of Sen. Robert Byrd (D), who passed away early Monday morning.

    “I don’t think anything unexpected happened here,” Troy Berman told The Ballot Box. “But we’re examining all of our legal options and we’ll make a decision on how to proceed in the next few days.”

    The decision from the West Virginia secretary of state’s office is that two separate elections will be on the November 2012 ballot for Byrd’s seat. One would fill the remaining few weeks of Byrd’s term, and the other would fill the seat for a full six-year term. A spokesman for the office also said that a candidate may run in both of those elections simultaneously.

  7. As curiosities, the last two senate vacancies from West Virginia occurred in 1956 and 1958, with somewhat more than 2 years remaining on the full term. But because the vacancies occurred in January and February, there was time to get an election in for the two years remaining in both terms.

    William Revercomb was elected in November 1956 to the final two years of a term from 1956-1959, and then was defeated by Byrd for the full term in November 1958. Byrd would go on to be re-elected 8 more times.

    At the same November 1958 election, Jennings Randolph was elected to the final two years of a term from 1958-1961. Randolph was re-elected to a full term in 1960 and served until 1985.

    Since Randolph assumed office upon election, he was the senior senator from Jan 3, 1959 for the next 26 years. Byrd was thus the junior senator for 26 years and the senior senator for not quite 25-1/2 years.

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