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West Virginia Special to Be Held in 2012

West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin (D) will appoint a replacement to fill the seat of the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D) until November 2012, when both a special election and a general election will take place on Election Day.

The announcement came Monday afternoon from West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant after an ambiguous section of state election law cast some questions about how and when Byrd’s seat would be filled. Tennant dubbed the state election code an “interesting document” during her Monday news conference.

While Byrd’s death occurred outside a window of two and a half years that would have automatically triggered a 2012 special election, Tennant pointed out that another section of state election code required a candidate who is running to fill the seat to have filed for the race during the state’s normal filing period, which has already passed.

“That means the election for the unexpired term would be the next election cycle, which would take place in 2012,” Tennant said. “Candidates will be nominated in the primary and elected in the general of 2012.”

She pointed to a 1994 West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals case that backed up that interpretation.

That means West Virginia voters will be asked to pick both a special election and general election candidate on the November 2012 ballot.

“Because Senator Byrd’s seat would have been up for re-election in 2012, both the position for the unexpired term and full term will be on the ballot at the same time, but are separate races,” Tennant said. “The winner of the unexpired term would serve out the final five weeks or so until the new term of Congress starts in January of 2013.”

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