WatchBlog: Effort to Appoint Byrd Replacement Turning Into Game of Clue

By westvirginia on June 28, 2010
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Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) hasn’t been dead 12 hours yet and already the speculation as to who replaces him and how has begun.

In a Twitter conversation with politically-connected friends I likened the whole thing to a game of Clue. There is a lot of information out there, but no one seems to know what is going on.

I find this interesting, considering Byrd has been in bad health for the past year, so you’d think there would have been some contingency plans for this day. Even big media outlets write up obituaries months and years in advance in case a high-profile person dies. Our Department of Defense has war plans to fight off the Canadians should they invade. But no thought as to what might happen when our oldest Senator dies?

I have gone after people who have wished Byrd had died years ago. I expressed displeasure when one conservative blog said he wore Depends. Those things are terrible to say. But people in this state have been reluctant to talk about the potential death of Byrd over the past year, going so far as to yell at people for even bringing it up. However, when you’re senator is elderly and in poor health it is not inappropriate to speculate, especially in regards to what we need to do to replace him.

Several news sites have gone over West Virginia law and most come up with the same scenario. Take Politico for example:

West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin, a Democrat, has the power to appoint a successor to Byrd — but, because Byrd died at the beginning of this week and not the end, it’s not entirely clear whether that person will be a short-timer in the Senate or serve more than two years.

Under West Virginia election law, Manchin surely would have been able to appoint someone to serve the entire balance of Byrd’s term had Byrd died after July 3 — or with less than 30 months left to go on a term that expires Jan. 3, 2013. But with more than 30 months left of an “unexpired term,” the law stipulates that he tap an interim successor until an election can be held.

That law, however, isn’t clear on two points within the construct: First, the law is silent on when, exactly, a vacancy occurs — at the time of death, when the Senate informs the state or when the governor declares it? — and the law for calling a special election is written in a way that suggests that it couldn’t be held until the date of the next regularly scheduled election in 2012.

Read More: West Virginia law murky on Robert Byrd succession – Jonathan Allen –

Other media have been using the June 3 information. That may or may not be the case, since West Virginia law defines a month as 30 days. I’m waiting for Jake Glance, spokesperson for West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, to get back to me on specifics, but I imagine he is busy.

There will be, however, a press conference by WVSOS Tennant at 4:30 p.m. that will be livestreamed from the WVSOS website.

I’m working on getting the embed code for that conference so I can put it up on WV Watchdog. At the press conference they are supposed to have the answers that way we can all stop speculating.

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Posted under Blog, Elections, Federal, Politics, Regulations, Transparency, U.S. Senate.
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