House passes odd bill changing process for U.S. Senate vacancies

virginia general assemblyThe House of Delegates voted Wednesday to pass a bill that would allow future governors to leave a vacated U.S. Senate seats unfilled practically indefinitely.

The bill, HB 1696, patroned by Del. Daniel Marshall, D-Danville, removes the authority of the governor to make a temporary appointment in the wake of a vacancy in the Senate, and removes the language limiting the date at which a special election can be held to fill a vacancy.

The bill passed on a 64-34 vote.

“This bill could disenfranchise Virginia’s 5.6 million voters,” said House Democratic Leader David J. Toscano. “Current law requires that an election be held for the vacant seat within a specified period of time. This bill grants the governor permission to call a special election, but it includes no timeframe by which the governor must do so. It empowers a governor from either party who is afraid that his party could not win a special election in a given political climate to simply leave the seat vacant indefinitely.”

“Last week Republicans killed 11 bills that would have made voting easier for Virginia’s seniors and working families,” said House Caucus Chair Charniele Herring. “Then they passed a bill that unnecessarily complicates elections for a vacant U.S. Senate seat, while we still wait for a full vote on an independent redistricting commission. Making voting harder and complicating the election process is harmful to our democracy.”


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