West Virginia Attorney General Darrell McGraw (D) issued an advisory opinion Thursday that opens the door for a special election to be held this year to fill the seat of the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D).
McGraw said that waiting until 2012 to hold the special election would fly in the face of the spirit of the 17th Amendment of the Constitution, which establishes direct election of Senators. McGraw suggested that a special election could be held this Election Day, Nov. 2.
“The Attorney General has determined that, in his opinion, a special election to fill the vacancy may occur before 2012 and may occur in conjunction with the general election this November,” Gov. Joe Manchin (D) said in response to McGraw’s opinion Thursday. “In light of this opinion, I plan to speak with the state’s legislative leadership immediately to determine how we will further proceed in order to reach a conclusion to this matter.”
Manchin, who is expected to be a candidate in the special election, asked McGraw to review state election law this week after Secretary of State Natalie Tennant said last week that a quirk in state election law did not legally allow a special election to take place until 2012. Manchin said he would not make an appointment to fill Byrd’s seat until McGraw issued a ruling on the matter.
Since Tennant’s ruling last week, several groups have criticized a timeline that would force West Virginia voters to wait nearly two and a half years to elect their Senator. Both Manchin and Tennant have expressed their personal desire for the special election to be held sooner than 2012.