Elections and Government Services Administrative Rules of Montana Business Services Notary and Certification Records and Information Management

U.S. Senate vacancies should be filled through special elections, not special favors

March 11, 2009

(Helena, MT) – Montana Secretary of State Linda McCulloch today submitted written testimony to the United States Senate Judiciary Committee urging swift approval of Senate Joint Resolution 7, a constitutional amendment to require a statewide election to fill any future vacancies in the U.S. Senate. The resolution, submitted by Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold and California Congressman David Drier had a hearing this morning in Washington, DC.

“Filling an unexpected or unscheduled vacancy in the United States Senate should require special elections, not special favors,” McCulloch wrote in her testimony. “That’s why it is time for Congress, and State Legislatures across the country, to change the process once and for all.”

McCulloch submitted written testimony to the Committee detailing the need for the new constitutional amendment. McCulloch said the measure would expand voters’ rights and do away with any future questionable appointments, like those that have recently taken place in some states. She also urged Congress to consider federal funding assistance to states that hold a special statewide election because of a U.S. Senate vacancy.

“As you consider this joint resolution, I urge that you also consider a mechanism to assist states with the cost of administering these rare special statewide elections,” McCulloch wrote. “As a former State Representative myself, I can assure you that such considerations will be well received by any state legislatures tasked with considering this constitutional amendment in the near future.”

Since approval of the 17th Amendment in 1913 only two senators from Montana have been appointed to fill a vacant U.S. Senate seat (Senator John Erickson in 1933, and Senator Paul G. Hatfield in 1978). Neither was subsequently elected to the office when Montana voters were given the right to make the choice.

“Historically speaking, appointed Senators have not always been the people’s choice here in Montana,” said McCulloch. “Montanans are independent and voters don’t want a self-serving government.”