Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Media missing the fine print on possible Kennedy succession

In every article I've read about the procedure to replace Senator Kennedy should he choose to retire because of his illness, the law regarding succession has pointed to a special election between 145 and 160 days after the resignation is announced. Here is this morning's Globe, for example:
The law says a special election would be held 145 to 160 days after either a vacancy is created or a senator declares he or she is vacating the seat. It specifically bars a temporary appointee until voters can choose a replacement.
That is what the law says, but it also says something else, which I have not seen reported anywhere:
If a vacancy for senator is created after April 10 of an even-numbered year, but on or before the seventieth day preceding the regular state primary, the precepts shall appoint the day of the regular state primary and the biennial state election for holding the special primary and special election required by this section.
In other words, if Senator Kennedy were to announce his retirement on or before July 8 (the seventieth day before the September primary) the special election would be placed on the November 4 ballot along with the other races, including the presidential race and the contest for John Kerry's seat. In that case, a special primary would be held on September 16 along with the regularly scheduled primary.

This is in no way to suggest that Senator Kennedy should or will announce a retirement early this summer. I hope along with the everyone else in Massachusetts that Senator Kennedy makes a full recovery. But if the Senator believes that his prognosis is bleak, the timing of a possible decision to retire becomes very important, as the prospect of another election this summer looms.

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