FairVote RI

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   Providence, RI 02906

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Special Elections for Vacant US Senate Seats
Every person who represents Rhode Island in Washington, DC should be elected by the people. H 5094 and S 201, sponsored by State Rep. Christopher Fierro and State Sen. Paul Jabour, ensure democracy in every contingency. You can help us get to that goal by emailing the General Assembly leadership and Governor Carcieri: click here.

Read about FairVote's proposal in the papers: The Economist, The New York Times, the Providence Journal.

From a press release out of the RI General Assembly:

“U.S. Senate seats belong to the voters. No one person, regardless of his or her party affiliation, should get to decide who is going to represent the entire state in the Senate,” said Representative Fierro, who represents District 51 in Woonsocket. “Inevitably, politics are going to play a role in that appointment, and that’s not how the Senate is meant to be constituted. The 17th Amendment was meant to stop the Senate from being a body of politically appointees and turn it into one whose members are directly elected, and in that spirit, we should adopt this legislation.”

The bill (2009-H 5094)would require that a special election be held to fill U.S. Senate vacancies, unless such a vacancy occurs after July 1 of an election year. In that case, the vacancy would be filled during the regular general electoral cycle.

Representative Fierro and the bill’s cosponsors say the current law is a vestige of an outdated system of electing senators, prior to the ratification of the 17th amendment in 1913. Until that point, senators were chosen by state legislatures. While the amendment called for the direct popular election of senators, it allowed for vacancies to be filled via other mechanisms.

Check out our one page primer on the issue, submitted to the Judiciary Committee of the Rhode Island House, for more information on this simple but important change.