For Immediate Release
/ August 25th 2009

Major Editorials: Let Voters Choose Massachusetts' Senators

New York Times, Wall Street Journal and others join FairVote in opposition to filling U.S. Senate vacancies by appointment

For Immediate Release: 
August 25, 2009

David Segal, analyst - [email protected] - 401-499-5991
Rob Richie, executive director - [email protected] - 301-270-4616
Paul Fidalgo, communications director - [email protected] - 202-615-1295

Prominent publications and political leaders in Massachusetts and across the country have joined FairVote in opposing a proposed change to Massachusetts law that would allow for the appointment of U.S. Senators in the case of a vacancy. Massachusetts is one of five states that requires a special election to fill vacancies in the U.S. Senate, but last week Sen. Edward Kennedy asked the governor and legislature of Massachusetts to amend that law so that if Sen. Kennedy should need to vacate his seat, a gubernatorial appointment could be made to immediately replace him.

Today's New York Times cites FairVote research in its opposition to the potential change from elections to appointments, writing, "Special elections put the power where it should be in a democracy - with the people. Too many senators today are selected in elections of one, with the governor casting the only vote. . . . states should be moving away from gubernatorial appointment of senators, not toward it." The Wall Street Journal, Philadelphia Inquirer and Boston Herald agree, and Dale McFeatters of Scripps Howard also cites FairVote in his call for Massachusetts to "respectfully decline" Sen. Kennedy's request. Meanwhile, the Boston Globe reports that many in the Massachusetts legislature are uncomfortable with the idea of taking this fundamental power away from the voters.

In a blog post for The Hill, FairVote's David Segal and Rob Richie write, "Sen. Kennedy and his congressional colleagues should act to create a level playing field for all states and better representation for all voters by supporting the constitutional amendment offered by Senators Russ Feingold and John McCain and Representative David Dreier. . . . Let's give the voters the last word." The proposed amendment (SJ 7) would require all U.S. Senators to be elected - just as is already required of all U.S. House Members.

FairVote analyst David Segal is available for comment at [email protected] and 401-499-5991. His commentary on this issue has appeared in the New York Times, Baltimore Sun, and the Hartford Courant, and his testimony before Congress is available here. FairVote's Rob Richie can be reached at [email protected] and (301) 270-4616.

Note: We would like to clarify a point made in our August 21st press release concerning this issue. The percentage of the U.S. population represented by unelected senators will be almost 27 percent once the governors of Florida and Texas make appointments to fill coming Senate vacancies. The online version of the press release has been amended to reflect this clarification.

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Established in 1992, FairVote is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that educates and enlivens discourse on how best to achieve a democracy that respects every voice and every vote. We pursue innovative research, strategic outreach and civic education in order to promote fair access to political participation, fair elections, and fair representation. For more information, contact communications director Paul Fidalgo at [email protected] or (301) 270-4616.